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Movie review: Scandal aside, ‘The Interview’ is pretty good

James Franco stars as Dave Skylark and Seth Rogen stars as Aaron Rapoport in Columbia Pictures' "The Interview."
James Franco stars as Dave Skylark and Seth Rogen stars as Aaron Rapoport in Columbia Pictures' "The Interview." Columbia Pictures

“The Interview” might be the most famous movie in the world right now, thanks to the Sony hacking scandal – allegedly at the behest of angry North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un – and is sure to go down in history as the film that sparked a legitimate international incident.

But is it any good?

Do you like stoner comedies? Did you like the last Seth Rogen-James Franco-Evan Goldberg collaboration, “This Is the End,” about a celebrity party at the apocalypse?

So yeah, I did like this silly, over-the-top yet audacious movie that imagines the assassination of Kim, much in the same way Quentin Tarantino imagined the assassination of Hitler in “Inglourious Basterds.”

Put it this way: Imagine “Harold and Kumar go to North Korea,” or “Bill and Ted’s Excellent North Korean Adventure,” or even “The Road to Pyongyang” starring Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. You get the idea.

Dave Skylar (Franco) is the host of the popular trashy celebrity show “Skylar Tonight,” which is like a worst-case scenario “Entertainment Tonight” or “Inside Edition.” Celebrities – such as Eminem and Rob Lowe – are coerced by Skylark’s charm to reveal big secrets they have hidden for years, much to the delight of Skylark but not so much to his producer, Aaron Rapaport (Rogen, who also co-directs with Goldberg), who had ambitions out of journalism school to work for “60 Minutes.” He settled for this.

One of the fans of the show is reported to be Kim – which would make sense: He like Dennis Rodman, and DPRK leaders have been known for their fondness of American schlock, including porn.

Skylar and Rapaport secure an exclusive interview with Kim and jet off to Pyongyang, just like Rodman did in real life. Before they depart, however, the CIA pays them a visit and convinces them to kill Kim.

“The Interview” kicks into gear when they arrive in North Korea – not because of any great plot twists – it’s all fairly predictable – but in the way the American actors playing North Koreans bring life to their cliched roles. James Yi (Kim’s security chief), Diana Bang (minister of propaganda) and Randall Park (as a fun-loving Kim – there’s even a basketball scene in a clear reference to Rodman) are infectious in their commitment to their roles.

(By the way, much of the film takes place in Kim’s palace; don’t expect any insight into the plight of the North Korean people.)

What will throw some off – though not those that have seen Franco’s “Pineapple Express” – is the film’s turn toward violent action. I won’t reveal whether they succeed in killing Kim, but Rogen and Goldberg are part of a generation of comic filmmakers who don’t shy away from getting a bit grim amid all the buffoonery.

Again, this is ultimately a silly movie. Knowing what we know now, it’d be great if Rogen could have dropped a few jokes at Sony’s expense, the way Hope would make fun of Paramount in the “road” movies.

But no matter what you think of dumb comedies, “The Interview,” thanks allegedly to Kim, has gone from disposable to indispensible cinema. It’s a must-see movie in the context of what has happened, and will spark a discussion of, in comedy, how far is too far?

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