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Review: 'The Interview'

James Franco as Dave Skylark and Randall Park as Kim Jong-un in "The Interview."

Seth Rogen is the Harold Ramis of the modern stoner comedy. The Interview, which he co-wrote, directed and stars in, is part Stripes, part pushing the comedy envelope a la Sacha Baron Cohen. And, of course, part cultural and political phenomenon.

I attended a sold-out screening of The Interview Friday night at New York's venerable art house Cinema Village, where you usually sit with less than 10 other people. The controversy around The Interview has served as a boon for indie theaters who've come to its rescue after the major chains passed on the film due to anonymous threats directed at them and potential theater-goers when "The Interview" opened on Christmas Day. It earned just over $1 million on 331 screens on opening day, way less than if the release had gone according to plan. So to some extent the fear campaign worked.

I bring up Ramis because Rogen has a similar sense of humor as Ramis, who wrote and/or directed and acted in Animal House, Caddyshack, Stripes, Ghostbusters and many more. Combine Ramis' anything-goes school of laughs with the political savvy of Cohen (by the way, they'll all Jewish) and you get Rogen, who works with his boyhood pal Evan Goldberg, just as Ramis did with Doug Kenney and others.

'The Interview' earned just over $1 million on 331 screens on opening day, way less than if the release had gone according to plan. So to some extent the fear campaign worked.

Now, take Rogen - his trademark guffaw, genial smarts and stoner strut - and pair him with James Franco (they were best buds in Pineapple Express and This Is the End) and you have The Interview - perhaps the most daring political comedy since Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove, which is saying a lot.

Rogen and Franco are a hoot together in yet another bromance (predictably they lock lips at one point). Franco is Dave Skylark, who hosts his own entertainment news show on a fictional network. Aaron Rapaport (Rogen) is his producer. When Aaron get slagged by a 60 Minutes producer, he decides the show should become more serious than celebrity nip slips and boob jobs. In a nod to how Dennis Rodman scored a meeting with Kim Jong-un, Dave receives an e-mail from North Korea inquiring about the show. Apparently, the Supreme Leader is a big fan.

Next thing the guys are planning to take off for Korea to score The Interview. First, they celebrate and do some Ecstasy (there's no weed in this stoner movie). But CIA Agent Lacey (Lizzy Caplan) shows up, and instructs them to kill Kim Jon-um instead. They eventually arrive at the fortress where the leader lives. At first, Dave and Kim (Randall Park) hit it off. Dave's pretty much a doofus and Kim excessively butters him up for the impending state-controlled interview.

Meanwhile, Adam falls for the Supreme Leader's right-hand woman, Sook (Diana Bang) (also right out of the Stripes handbook). That helps when the assassination plan goes awry. 

So really, the movie is very funny if you like Rogen's humor, which I do. But what's not funny is how they take out the Supreme Leader. During the interview, Dave makes major points about hunger and concentrations camps while teasing him with Katy Perry's "Firework," which he secretly loves. The discussion of North Korea's nuclear capability is akin to Russia's in Strangelove. In both movies, pressing the red button would change everything.

It's disconcerting to laugh at anyone's death. If indeed he's this generation's Hitler (as is suggested in the film), then I suppose imagining Kim Jong-un's demise has its merits. But you can see why North Korea would think otherwise. 

The Interview includes cameos by Eminem (in an early standout scene), Rob Lowe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bill Maher. Anders Holm from Workaholics plays Rogen's counterpart at 60 Minutes.

In addition to seeing The Interview at theaters - check out the list here - you can also watch it on YouTube and Google Play.

Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of CelebStoner.com, editor-in-chief of Freedom Leaf, co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness, and the former editor of High Times.