If you see that Jonah Hill and James Franco are in the same film, you’d be forgiven for assuming it would be a lightweight comic affair, given their mutual associations and previous work. However, in artistic theatre director Rupert Goold’s first foray into film, laughs are nowhere to be found. The mystery thriller ‘True Story’ is based on the memoir of the same name by former New York Times writer Mike Finkel, following his journalistic fall from grace. After losing his job due to fabricated storytelling, Finkel (Hill) discovers that Christian Longo (Franco), who is awaiting trial for the murder of his wife and three children, is using his name as an alias. Eager to explore the matter further, he arranges a prison visit, which triggers a psychological meeting of the minds that changes both of their lives forever.
Directed by: Greg Tiernan & Conrad Vernon
Starring: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Ed Norton
Release date: August 2016
At the best of times, the filmmaking partnership of Judd Apatow school of stoner comedy graduates Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg isn’t to everyone’s taste. Their latest collaboration though, due to its controversial storyline, has caused a stir like no other leading to distribution complications with Sony Pictures Entertainment and the much publicised talk of nuclear threat against America. Whilst Rogen’s writing and directing bond with Goldberg continues off-screen, his bromance with James Franco grows on it, and the two play the leading roles of TV producer Aaron Rapaport and talk show host Dave Skylark respectively. When their show Skylark Tonight is lambasted for being cheap and only interested in throwaway celebrity culture, they set their target on a more serious news-piece to silence the critics and before long, an opportunity presents itself for Dave to interview supreme leader of North Korea Kim Jong-un. CIA Agent Lacey (Lizzy Caplan) then intervenes, giving instructions to ‘take him out’.
An uneasy mix of politics and toilet humour, the style and the substance of the narrative couldn’t be further apart. The comedy often works but apart from the opening segment involving an excellent Eminem cameo, the strength is contained within the little gags and quippy one-liners rather than the more over-the-top setpieces. As crazy as this sounds, the plot actually gets more ludicrous as it develops, the two friends splitting off into their separate paths as Dave bonds with Kim Jong Un over their mutual love of Katy Perry while Aaron enjoys a lustful pathway with Kim’s regimented propagandist Sook Yung Park. Performance wise, I’ve seen Rogen and Franco on better form and though some of the dialogue is lazily written, it’s fun to see them bounce off one another. Lizzy Caplan brings her Masters of Sex sauciness to the table effectively, tossing herself into a minefield of innuendo. Credit should also go to Randall Park who takes the part of Kim Jong Un. His turn is brave despite essentially being a caricature and figure of ridicule.
For the film that could’ve started World War III, or so Sony would like us to believe, it is largely anti-climactic. More silly than side-splitting though it does have the odd moments of hilarity as well as surprisingly stunning cinematography when the story moves into Asian territory. Perhaps the ambitious premise is a step too far for the masters of juvenile joviality as it just wasn’t funny enough. Their next team project is a 3D animated comedy called ingeniously titled Sausage Party, which from the sounds of it will be much better suited to their line of work. ‘The Interview’ isn’t in the same league as Pineapple Express or the apocalyptic hit This is the End, but for avid fans of this knob-joke laden brand of cinema, it is worth downloading to watch in the comfort of your own home, or wait until it’s on Netflix.
See the trailer:
A comedy apocalypse film featuring a host of actors playing themselves. The premise for ‘This Is The End’ is ridiculous but somehow, it is genius. Based on the 2007 short ‘Jay and Seth Versus the Apocalypse’ by Jason Stone, this also stars Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel but is co-directed by Rogen and frequent collaborator Evan Goldberg who also worked on Superbad, Knocked Up and 50/50. When Jay visits Seth in LA, they are invited along to a housewarming bash thrown by James Franco, and although Jay doesn’t feel welcomed into the Hollywood scene, he reluctantly accepts. When disaster strikes, he and a selection of other guests including Jonah Hill, Danny McBride and Craig Robinson are forced to stick together and ride it out with hilarious consequences.
Now when in a cinema in front of the latest comedy, it’s the norm to find parts incredibly funny, admiring the jokes and the delivery, though in recent years good comedies have been very few and far between. It is however unusual, for me personally anyway, to physically laugh consistently and at times uncontrollably, almost from start to finish. ‘This Is The End’ delivers in a big way, from its self-parodying gags to the deliberately shoddy CGI. There are, as expected, hordes of knob jokes and a lot of childish humour but the chemistry between the stars makes it extremely watchable. After the initial OTT burst of destruction in the opening third of the film, the focus changes to a survival theme, the gang gathering their resources and putting together a plan, rationing supplies of water, beer, hallucinogens and a Milky Way. They go on to discover that it is Judgement day, and only a show of sacrifice would allow them access to be ‘sucked up’ into heaven, leaving only the selfish egos of LA behind to die.
Rogen is as effortlessly fun as he always his, this time happily joining in with making fun of the typecast hash smoking roles and the ‘Seth Rogen laugh’ which have become synonymous with his work. His slowly flowing dialogue links nicely with the rest of the players, particularly James Franco, and this is built upon when they playfully discuss a Pineapple Express sequel. Baruchel takes the ‘straight man’ role, which is needed in the midst of the surrounding jokers and he gets it down to a tee. The rest of the cast runs off like an Apatow conveyor belt of names in the initially party scenes, Jonah Hill reuniting with Michael Cera and Christopher Mintz-Plasse for a brief, but fantastic segment. Jonah Hill is the stand out, taking centre stage in a comical Exorcist spoof sequence, though Robinson and McBride also provide bags of laughs. The bit part cameos recur and without giving anything away, a poster boy gives us his career best performance.
The more I think about ‘This Is The End’, the more I love it and I am still finding myself quietly chuckling over certain moments. I recommend this highly, but it is not for the easily offended and requires a certain mindset, so that the audience can take the film as seriously as those involved, which is not a lot at all, but that is not to say it has been taken lightly. Just when the Rogen/Goldberg writing bromance was thought to be running its course with recent hiccups such as The Green Hornet and The Watch failing to achieve the critical acclaim of their earlier pieces, they’re back again reminding us what they can do with the funniest film I’ve seen in years.