It's rare to think of the release of studio comedy as being particularly brave. Most of the time these films are boring, formulaic, and dumb, the result of untold meetings and brainstorming sessions. But given the fact that Sony's release of "The Interview" could have potentially been responsible for a huge systematic hack of the company's computer system, leaking employees' personal information (including email addresses and Social Security numbers), screeners of unreleased films, and countless internal memos, well, it's hard to think of the release of "The Interview" as anything else but brave.

To explain: "The Interview" is about a pair of dim bulb journalists (played by Seth Rogen and James Franco), who travel to North Korea to interview (and assassinate) Kim Jong-un (Randall Park). North Korea, a country never known for its sense of humor (instead people tend to focus on pesky issues like concentration camps and lack of food or power for its people), seems to have retaliated in the most powerful way: by exposing the world to the petty bickering of studio executives and creative professionals.

But is "The Interview" a movie that's worthy of such an attack? And, more importantly, is it worthy of your hard-earned dollar come Christmastime? (The movie is released on Christmas day.) These questions (and more) will now be answered.

1. It's Really Funny
The first (and most important) thing you should know about "The Interview" is how funny it is. It's really funny. The last time a studio comedy made me laugh this hard was probably "Neighbors," another Seth Rogen joint that was released earlier this year. (Rogen actually co-wrote, produced and directed "The Interview," in addition to starring in it.) I'll get into why it was so funny in a minute. But just know, off the bat, that you'll laugh your self silly if you go.

2. No, Like Really Ridiculously Funny
Maybe I'm not making myself clear here, but "The Interview" is a certifiable gut-buster. There are moments and certain phrases, most of which cannot be repeated on a family website, that I have been replaying in my head since seeing the movie. Everyone clearly had such a wonderful time making this movie, it's hard to believe that it could have made so many people so mad.

3. James Franco Is Wonderful
Sometimes it's easy to underestimate or even forget about James Franco. He does so much, all of the time, that eventually his output has become a kind of white noise, playing in the background of most of our lives. This is, after all, a guy who teaches classes, appears on daytime soap operas, writes short stories, directs, attends class at about five universities, and probably bottles his own wine. But he's also one of the most accomplished comedians of his generation, able to switch moods and tones almost effortlessly, and in "The Interview" he gets to unleash his entire arsenal of emotions in service of a single role: as dummy journalist Dave Skylark. (Rogen is Skylark's producing partner, Aaron and his role as the straight man is obviously less showy and effective.) It really is a sight to behold. What a wonderful, energetic delight.

4. There's a Great Twist
But I'm not spoiling it here.

5. Eminem Shows Up
Early in "The Interview," white rapper Eminem shows up to play an exaggerated version of himself, appearing on Dave Skylark's show. It's a segment of the movie that feels almost as long as the segment on the fictional show, and Eminem has a lot of fun with his public persona, making an admission on air that will make your jaw drop. And no, this isn't the twist.

6. It's Pretty Violent
Just because this is a mainstream studio comedy doesn't mean that the blood won't flow. Because it does. There are buckets and buckets of the red stuff, enough to paint your house. Just know this going in. But it's not too gross. In fact, it's pretty great and another reason why this movie is probably more controversial than, say, "Dumb and Dumber To."

7. Randall Park Is a Revelation
The actor who plays Kim Jong-un is totally fabulous, and a complete revelation. He is so funny too. You can't say a whole lot about his character without giving away stuff, and since giving away anything about this movie is punishable by time served in a North Korean prison, I'll back away. But just know that if you haven't seen Park before (and, honestly, you might have -- he's a regular on "Veep" and has been in most of Nicholas Stoller's movies), he is about to jump to the top of your list of people to watch. Whatever this guy does next, I want to be there.

8. It's Straight-Up Gorgeous
"The Interview" was shot by Brandon Trost in the style of '70s conspiracy thrillers like "The Parallax View" and "Three Days of the Condor." These were the same movies that inspired Marvel's big-budget "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," except "The Interview" evokes those movies better and looks way more gorgeous. There were frequently moments when my jaw dropped; I could not believe that a studio comedy looked this lush and textured. Trost is one of the best young cinematographers working in the business today and he did a tremendous job with "The Interview."

9. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg Are Pretty Impressive Directors
Last year, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg made their feature directorial debut with "This Is the End," and they're already back with their second feature and it is a vast improvement, directorially, than the first. Things keep moving at a breathless clip (it moves), with enough time given to the characters and embroidered by a ton of wonderful stylistic and editorial flourishes. In truth these guys could go on to make some really great movies; "The Interview" is the first step in that direction.

10. There Are Moments That Feel Toned Down
One of the leaked Sony emails suggests that the head of the Sony corporation (jeez) asked for Rogen and Goldberg to tone down a particularly violent death at the end of the movie, but elsewhere the movie feels somewhat toned down, like it could have been even nastier, funnier, and weird. Don't get me wrong, the movie is one of the very best comedies of the year, a fearless feat that mixes scatological humor with genuine social satire, but it could have pushed things even further. That could have turned what is a really great movie into a certifiable classic. Still, there are few must-see movies this Christmas but "The Interview" is definitely one of them.

categories Movies, Reviews