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The Interview Review

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A dim-witted television host (Franco) and his loyal producer (Rogen) are enlisted by the CIA to assassinate Kim Jong-un (Park) after being invited to conduct a primetime interview with the North Korean leader himself.

★★★★★

Has it really been ONLY a decade since Judd Apatow introduced the world to Seth Rogen’s burly charms while ushering in an age of shaggy-but-sweet manchild vehicles? The director of Knocked Up and producer of Pineapple Express may not have his name on The Interview in any formal capacity, but it’s impossible to ignore his fingerprints on this latest team-up between straight man Rogen and endearingly dopey co-star James Franco.

With its theatrical release beset by a widely publicised bout of cyber-hacking, everything about The Interview short of the film itself suggests a sharp satire of hollow entertainment journalism and headstrong American imperialism. Never mind that Trey Parker and Matt Stone already had their way with Kim Jong-il and half of Hollywood with 2004’s Team America: World Police; Rogen, Franco and company are perfectly comfortable with rehashing references to The Lord Of The Rings and unwelcome anal penetration, thank you very much.

Franco plays Dave Skylark, the appropriately vapid host of long-running tabloid programme Skylark Tonight. In the wake of the show’s thousandth episode, producer Aaron Rapaport (Rogen) is nonetheless disappointed to have made his reputation on all manner of trashy celeb revelations. Eager to cheer up his buddy with the prospect of journalistic legitimacy, Dave points out that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un (Randall Park) happens to be a big fan of the show.

As luck should have it, Kim’s staff agree to an exclusive interview (complete with carefully guided lines of questioning), and as fate should have it, the American government — personified by CIA Agent Lacey (Lizzy Caplan) — would appreciate it if these two dimwits wouldn’t mind eliminating the current greatest threat to Western civilisation during their stay in Pyongyang.

If it sounds like a bit of a laboured set-up to get this generation’s Bob Hope and Bing Crosby into hijinks above the 38th parallel, well, it is. Co-directing Canadians Rogen and Evan Goldberg had an easier time convincing us that a party filled with self-mocking movie stars faced the full-on Apocalypse in 2013’s This Is The End than they do here. Once our boys do come to know a remarkably insecure Kim, the bromance routine of late sets in, with this film’s third wheel of choice just happening to be the heir to a legacy of real-world totalitarianism.

However, no matter how old-hat or gross-out the gags get, the two leads still get a fair amount of mileage out of their own reliably irreverent chemistry. Rogen gives good worrywart while Franco mugs his way through most exchanges, with the short-shrifted Caplan often relegated to rolling her eyes from a Langley control centre. Stealing the show out from under its stars are Park and Diana Bang, who plays Sook, Kim’s designated liaison to the visiting Americans. Bothactors land plenty of laughs, but more impressive is their equal ability to find curiously sympathetic angles from which to approach two potential caricatures, and the film is usually funnier between the inane innuendo and cheerful outbursts of violence for it.

Considering how its inflammatory ambition and scattershot execution put it closer to Spies Like Us than The Great Dictator on the political comedy spectrum, The Interview should ultimately stand as the boastfully juvenile lightning rod that modern American culture deserved — no butts about it.

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