The Interview is NOT the new Life of Brian

I’m going to be absolutely honest: When I first saw the trailer for The Interview, it did feel slightly off to me. I know, I know – hindsight this, hindsight that – but it did.

Parodying Kim Jong-Un, a living dictator, in such a broad fashion seemed extremely provocative. It was weird enough when Hitler was parodied and made to be a fool in Inglourious Basterds, and he’s dead, as well as unoquivocally considered to be one of the most evil people to ever have lived.

Something about making comedy and lightness out of genuinely morbid figures seems medieval to me. A bit uncivilised. Like a farcical play in 16th Century Britain where the bad guys wear silly hats and get booed.

It’s all well and good me saying this now, AFTER The Interview has become the epicentre of a political storm and been pulled from every cinema worldwide. Frankly, my voice will be lost amongst millions of others on the morality of the movie and the validity of branding it’s cancellation ‘cencorship’.

What I’d like to flag right now, before it gets out of hand, is the misplaced mystique beginning to surround The Interview.

Upon cancellation of the movie’s release Twitter erupted with celebrities stating they will try their hardest to see the movie as soon as possible, or be ‘first in line’ upon its eventual release. This suggests that The Interview as a movie stands for much more than silly Hollywood comedy. It suggests that by being cancelled (or censored), it gathers appeal and a restricted allure as inevitably as a rolling snowball gathers more snow.

This is NOT the case. The Interview is not a monumental comedy. It is not trying to make a political point, or fashion an intricate and satirical dance around international current affairs. It is NOT Monty Python’s Life of Brian. 

Life of Brian was Monty Python's silly take on religion and belief.
Life of Brian was Monty Python’s hilarious take on religion and belief.

Life of Brian, famously, was similarly censored (albeit not as widely) in counties, states and sometimes even whole countries upon its release in 1979. The very act of restricting its release along with hugely positive word coming from the few who had managed to see it combined to create an earthquake of interest that rippled throughout the globe, so much so that people scrambled to see it at all costs.

Of course, when they did eventually see it, all the controversy was forgotten and replaced with adoration for a seminal piece of comedy film-makingLife of Brian remains one of the greatest comedy films ever made.

I haven’t seen The Interview. But I have seen pretty much every other film involving Seth Rogen. If I imagine, hypothetically speaking, that ANY of his previous works for some reason provoked a foreign leader, or sympathisers of a foreign leader, to launch a cyber attack on the movie and halt its release, I can’t seem to draw up ANY of them that would have been worth so much interest and hype.

MORE: Anyone else want Seth Rogen to just STOP?

Imagine if The Green Hornet had irritated Putin. Or if Funny People had really ticked off Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president. After to-ing and fro-ing, the movie was finally able to be seen. The occasion wouldn’t be momentous, hilarious and significant, on the scale of Life of Brian – it would have been an anticlimax. It would have been:

‘Oh. This is it?’

While the Life of Brian was reasoned and intelligent, The Interview seems clumsy…heavy handed – and that’s just from the trailer (watch below). So don’t start trying to make The Interview some emblem for democracy, some badge of rebellion that we all crave to wear. Because it’s not. It’s just a silly little Hollywood comedy that has found itself in the middle of a big old news story.

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Anyone else want Seth Rogen to just STOP?

Maybe it was Freaks & Geeks, maybe it was 40 Year-Old Virgin – whenever it was, the first time you laid eyes on Seth Rogen’s curious hair and loveable face, the first time you heard his infectious laugh, you probably knew he was here to stay.

Then when Knocked-Up rolled around there was a collective arched eyebrow:

‘So this guy is a leading man then, hmm?’

What was it? He is not typically good looking or even conventionally funny in a Steve Carrell/Jim Carrey goofy sense, but something about Seth Rogen spearheading a movie just seemed to fit.

Since his breakthrough in 2007 he has become the face of Hollywood’s current comedy scene, the ambassador for his pantheon of cronies – Paul Rudd, Jonah Hill, Jason Segel…

But how current is he really?

Very soon he will star in The Interview aside James Franco, with a final trailer being released yesterday (which you can see at the bottom of this post). The new movie tops off a 7-year period where he has been everywhere.

Everwhere. Constantly. And it is irritating. 

While delivering headline performances in the likes of Pineapple Express, Funny People and most recently Bad Neighbours, he’s popped up in everything his mates get up to such as Anchorman, Step Brothers and Superbad. 

The problem isn’t just his omnipresence, it is also in what form he is present most of the time. Answer – himself. Rogen never changes his character. Look at all of his comedy performances and you see a schluppy slob punching above his weight in some way, normally with a woman, and getting in to some sort of trouble due to his stupidity or laziness. Look for differentiation and all you find is whether or not his character smoked pot – which he normally does.

Punching above his weight as usual...
Punching above his weight as usual…

Great comedy performers of the past have also settled in to a rhythm and persona that works for them. The aforementioned Jim Carrey managed to throw himself around for over a decade before he ran out of steam. More recently Ben Stiller has been screaming and neurotic for years now, not forgetting Bill Murray who is arguably still hoovering up all the cynical, dead-pan roles there are to have.

The difference between those three legends and Rogen? The secret to their longevity? Frequency, quality and participation in other genres.

Sure, Jim Carrey and Ben Stiller have had their fair share of samey, often brilliant, comedy roles such as Ace Ventura or White Goodman in Dodgeball, and Bill Murray has pulled the down-beat card more often than one can care to remember.

But they didn’t do it all the time like Rogen.

A glance at Carrey’s resume shows his excursions into drama, playing straight-faced roles in the brilliant Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the charming Man on the Moon, and the prognostic Truman Show. 

Even Stiller, even Stillerhas earned his stripes in Greenberg and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, playing entirely variant roles with real integrity.

Finally with Murray, everyone is aware of his painfully good dramatic work in Lost In Translation. While there are other examples, no more are required.

It isn’t that Rogen is bad – he’s great, and has just as much right as any comedy performer to explore a persona that he feels comfortable with, especially when improvising.

The problem is that he is mismanaged – by himself and his advisors – towards a repetitive career direction that may ultimately be fatal; a dead end.

All Rogen needs is variety so we can continue to enjoy his silly, stoner – and occasionally funny – comedies. Maybe if he took some time to concentrate on other types of projects, the ideas and humour for his favourite genre’s escapades would begin to improve back towards his previous standards.

Maybe he just needs a break from it.

God knows I do.

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As promised, here is the final trailer for The Interview, starring Rogen and James Franco.