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Why I Loved “The Interview”

December 25, 2014

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I probably wouldn’t have seen The Interview were it not for Kim Jong Un. So let me just say: Thank you, Kim Jong Un. Your two thumbs down—with one finger on the nuclear button—made me want to flip you the proverbial bird. So I paid $5.99 to rent the movie at seetheinterview.com. And when that didn’t work (it just kept endlessly loading—maybe North Korea hacked the site?), I paid another $6.42 ($5.99, plus tax) to watch it on Google Play Movies. And it was worth every penny.

I’m not just saying that because Sony’s switcheroo decision to release The Interview as scheduled on Christmas Day—albeit in a limited number of theaters as well as on VOD—was a blow for creative freedom. I’m saying that because the movie made me laugh. Out loud. Sitting all alone in a hotel room.

I thought I’d had enough of Seth Rogen and James Franco. I loved them 15 years ago on Freaks & Geeks and rooted for them after they became movie stars under the tutelage of Judd Apatow with movies like Superbad and Pineapple Express. But their humor became repetitive and boring, and  This is the End was the end for me: It felt like a movie that was written and filmed while the participants were stoned, and it just wasn’t that funny when it was seen sober.

Yet with The Interview, Rogen and co-writer/director Evan Goldberg have seemingly sobered—and grown—up. True, there’s a little drug humor, and plenty of low-bro jokes about buttholes and pooping (some of which, I must admit, made me plotz with glee). But like his character, TV news producer Aaron Rapaport, Rogen set out to do something with substance, and in large part, he’s succeeded.

You won’t learn much about North Korea from The Interview: the depth of political commentary pretty much begins and ends with the fact that Kim-Jong Un (Randall Park) starves and murders his people and threatens to unleash nuclear hell on his enemies, most notably us. But like The Great Dictator and The Producers did with Hitler, The Interview uses the humor of its day to portray an evil dictator as an object of ridicule. In this case, the North Korean despot is exposed as a margarita-drinking Katy Perry superfan. (The fact that I enjoy the occasional fruity frozen drink and don’t switch the station when “Teenage Dream” comes on the radio is neither here nor there). And such a silly satire can pack more pop-cultural power than a million well-meaning documentaries.

Franco’s performance as infotainment personality Dave Skylark is pitched a little high for my taste—it’s hard to believe someone this inane could command such a devoted audience. He’s a cross between Piers Morgan and Billy Bush. (Then again, Harvey Levin.) But Rogen and Franco have combustible comic chemistry—they’re a classic fat-guy, thin-guy team—and their bromantic relationship ultimately proves touching.

So I urge you all to see The Interview—in a theater, on your computer, or by any other means. Because he or she who laughs last laughs loudest and longest. Even if it is at a poop joke.

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