Saturday, December 27, 2014

Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg/James Franco's THE INTERVIEW: Relax, it's worth the $6 stream

The first maybe 25 minutes of the much-bandied-about movie, THE INTERVIEW, is so on-target and funny that you're going to be shocked that the comedy didn't get better reviews. Most audiences, it seems, are going to the film -- in theaters, at least -- to help champion freedom of speech. Or, in this case, freedom of watch. That's commen-dable -- though one might wish for this kind of support in turning back climate change. Still, this new movie, with a screenplay by Dan Sterling, is certainly the "film of the year," so far as making news is concerned.

What with its distributor, Sony, doing back flips and pretzel twists in order to somehow "make everything all right," the fact that the film has ended up on theaters screens and digital streaming for the holidays seems a major accomplishment, considering all that has gone before (much of it for which Sony itself can take credit). After initially blaming North Korea for the hacking, it now seems more likely that Sony insiders (or ex-insiders) might be responsible for the hacking and leakage. Whatever eventually comes out, the movie, co-directed by Evan Goldberg (shown at right) and its co-star Seth Rogen (below, right) begins on such a fast-paced, funny and high note that you will fear it cannot possibly maintain this pace and humor for its full length. And you'd be right.

The reason for this, from what I can ascertain, is that its co-directors, writer, and co-star/co-executive producer (James Franco, above, left, and below, right) know and care a hell of a lot more about celebrity, success and the Hollywood life than they do about North Korea. Consequently, when the movie concentrates on satirizing the former, it is riotous and on the mark. When it reaches North Korea, about half an hour in, it relies mostly on the usual blather about that sad, dictatorial little country and, plot-wise, offers up the usual coincidence, cliche, and mostly silly nonsense of every other ordinary, tired, would-be action comedy.

Don't get me entirely wrong: There are some funny moments that take place in the Korean section. But these are too few and far between to count for much overall. Plus, the humor here relies so flagrantly on fart, poop and butthole references that one does begin to wonder, after a time, how not-so-wide-ranging are the interests of these filmmakers. What they care about most seems to concern what comes out of (and goes into) the male anus. To each his own, as they say.

The North Korea section is funniest, again, when Franco and filmmakers stick to the travails of celebrity, in which the pudgy little dictator, Kim Jong-un (played quite charmingly/nastily by Randall Park, above, center) appears to find himself enmeshed. Otherwise the movie relies on the obvious and usual: women as sex objects (more like beards for the over-the-top homo-eroticism between our boys) and blowing things up. There's even a cutesy dog (below) used for cuddly irony.

One wonders, after awhile, why the writer could not have spent a tad more time trying to come up with even a remotely believable scenario. Instead, our twosome gets into North Korea so easily and manages to outwit its rather small cadre of dictator-protectors with no problem whatsoever. (Even the expected cavity search of the Rogen character -- he's carrying a small missile up his ass -- is not done at the moment when it obviously should be. Then, rather stupidly, that search is mentioned after the fact.)

If Rogen merely does his usual good work, Mr. Franco comes through with flying colors. The actor is sensationally good at kidding his own image, calling to question the reality of each situation by milking it for every bizarre layer. He is getting to be a master at this sort of thing -- while entertaining us like crazy. So, if you miss its Christmas theatrical run, you can stream The Interview online as we did (via YouTube) for just six bucks. That's a hell of a lot cheaper than paying $23 (the typical price for two senior tickets here in NYC), and you can cuddle on the couch while you view.

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