When someone is threatened by a murderous dictator it’s usually not something to cheer and laugh about. Unless it’s my generation’s funniest actor-filmmaker being intimidated in response to a satirical film about the tyrant’s assassination.
When one of the world’s most evil men declares your work “an act of war” you’re doing something right. The Verge reported:
The government of North Korea today issued an unsurprisingly harsh statement about Seth Rogen’s upcoming film, The Interview, denouncing the action-comedy as an “act of war.” In the movie, Rogen and James Franco star as two journalists who, after scoring an interview with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, are ordered by the CIA to assassinate him. In a statement published by the state-run KCNA news agency, a foreign ministry spokesman characterized Rogen as a “gangster filmmaker” and called upon the US to block the film, according to a report from the AFP.
“The act of making and screening such a movie that portrays an attack on our top leadership… is a most wanton act of terror and act of war, and is absolutely intolerable,” the spokesman said, adding that the US would face a “resolute and merciless response” if it fails to ban the film, which is slated for release later this year.
Rogen was born in 1982 and is 32 now — making him 2 years older than me and part of my generational cohort of those born 1981-1985, which I argued in this article here should best be understood as stuck between generations, the Millennial-Xer Blend. (Those born 1976-1980 are Millennial-leaning Gen-Xers. Those born 1986-1990 are X-er leaning Millennials. I think it’s only those born in ’71-’75 and ’91-’95 who tend to most embody the peer personality traits associated with the Generation X and Millennial stereotypes.)
So I’m a fan. I think Rogen’s consistently funny and now that he’s expanded into screenwriting and directing he’s shining. He has real potential to be our generation’s Woody Allen, minus all the narcissistic and creepy stuff. (Rogen doesn’t seem to be particularly self-obsessed and most of his films have a moral core amidst the skillful vulgarity.)
Here’s how I’d rank his 10 best so far. We’ll have to wait until October 10 to find out where The Interview ranks among them…
10. Kung Fu Panda (2008)
Rogen does the voice of the praying mantis master in this fun, entertaining, action movie-disguised as a kids movie. It was one of three family films that came out that year with his voice work.
In the above promo clip for the sequel Rogen notes how the Panda isn’t just voiced by Jack Black but the character takes in his whole personality. That’s the main reason why the movie’s more in the B-range for me instead of an A. I’ve never been a Jack Black fan. His manic comic persona — which seems to just be variations off of his break-out role in High Fidelity — has always struck me as too obnoxious for large dosages. (Though his recent film Bernie was a more encouraging turn away from his usual.)
I like Rogen’s more laid back, clever, eager persona more.
9. Funny People (2009)
Judd Apatow’s story of an older comedian mentoring a younger comic (played by Rogen) didn’t receive the same enthusiastic critical and box office response as Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old Virgin. It’s a bit long and wanders around and has a sharper, meaner thematic edge. So it doesn’t all come together and has highs and lows. Oh well — it’s still filled with hilarious jokes and some strong dramatic scenes with prescient observations on life and relationships. Don’t skip it.
8. Paul (2011)
Now here’s the opportunity for Rogen’s persona to take control of an animated character. This light, clever, fun comedy about a pair of sci-fi geeks who stumble across an oddball alien refugee escaped from Area 51 has plenty of entertaining moments and creative ideas. The way Paul can “download” all of his knowledge and experience into people’s heads is pretty cool.
I’m looking forward to the sequel which is due in 2015.
7. The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008)
Most family movies todays aren’t dark enough. This one has it more balanced, with some menacing enemies. Rogen provides the voice of a troll in a memorable role.
6. Observe and Report (2009)
Rogen stretches his persona in this under-appreciated gem. He plays a bipolar mall security officer with delusions of grandeur. It’s a great dark comedy with smarts and some big laughs.
5. The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005)
This was Rogen’s comedic break-out. I haven’t watched it in years but now want to revisit it. Rogen plays one of Steve Carell’s co-workers and grabbed attention with his pop culture improvisations:
4. Knocked Up (2007)
And this was Rogen’s dramatic and leading man break-out, proving that he could more than carry a move on his own.
Knocked Up and 40-Year-Old-Virgin anointed a new genre, the stealth conservative comedy. The formula: Wrap the Pro-marriage and pro-monogamy sheep in the wolfskin of expletive-filled pop culture rants. It works.
3. This Is the End (2013)
Rogen made his directing debut with his friend and writing partner Evan Goldberg here. He and others play fictionalized versions of themselves scrambling to avoid hell and make it to heaven after the apocalypse. (Apparently Hollywood celebrities aren’t as virtuous as they thought. The rapture skips over them.)
Among the bizarre things: the movie essentially accepts and presents a fairly literal Biblical apocalypse–respectfully.
Because of this film’s competence and success I have confidence The Interview will also be wonderful.
2. Pineapple Express (2008)
Rogen and James Franco starred in the first and best “stoner action movie” ever. Die Hard crossed with Cheech and Chong. It’s tremendously entertaining and one of funniest films of the last decade. (Note to self: do list post later of the funniest films of the last decade…)
1. Superbad (2007)
Superbad was Rogen and Goldberg’s writing breakout. The story of two teenager friends pursuing drunken hook-ups before college is filled with numerous laughs, memorable characters, and a moral center. In many ways it embodies a successful formula that Rogen has just continued to develop with larger budgets and more sophistication.
What do you think? Am I all that far out in arguing that the best comedies are those that can aim high and low at the same time? Rogen is carrying on the Apatow tradition: lewd humor and outlandish premises obscure and take the edge off of traditionalist, moral messages? Works for me. If not this then what? Who’s a better comedic talent under 40 — both acting and writing/directing — than Rogen?