‘The Interview’ Threat: Which Rogen/Franco Collaborations Are Actually Worth Being Nuked Over?

This, apparently, is not a joke: Although we’re months away from release for The Interview — the latest Seth Rogen/James Franco collaboration, in which the two play celebrity journalists tasked with going undercover and killing Kim Jong-un — North Korea has already gone ahead and denounced the flick in hysterically outlandish fashion. Multiple reputable news sources have picked up what is supposedly an official statement from a foreign ministry spokesman, saying, “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” — and to these “gangster moviemakers,” a “merciless response” is promised.

And if that’s not enough, on Thursday, a day after the statement was released, the L.A. Times points out, the North Korean government went ahead and launched three short-range missiles into the sea. Coincidence?! Well, yeah, probably: As the L.A. Times also points out, “North Korea periodically tests missiles, with the last one coming in March.” But never mind that! With even an infinitesimal chance that the North Koreans are now tacitly engaging in low-simmering international brinksmanship with the Rogen/Franco team, we have to ask: Is it worth it? Could The Interview be worth being potentially missiled? Has any Rogen/Franco collaboration been worth a theoretical nuking? A brief consideration.

Pineapple Express (2008)

This is still the definitive article in the Rogen/Franco two-hander canon: While they’d been onscreen together before, they’d never actually played off each other this intimately. This, I would argue, was the official beginning of the Franco, Huge Workaholic Weirdo era. Before going Full Franco, James tested the against-type, still-cuddly performance in a major studio comedy; that it was well received certainly gave him some ideas. (Also, check ’em out in this Moviefone Unscripted interview from the Pineapple Express press tour, in which Franco says he’s started going to school so he can, one day, write and produce his own movies, like his buddy Seth. “I’m glad that’s on film, that James Franco is jealous of me [Rogen laughs] … that’s great [Rogen laughs].”) It also set the template for the Franco/Rogen relationship, in art as in real life, with Franco the earnest loving over-sharer and Rogen the reticent-but-still-loyal compatriot. It’s odd, then, to remember that Rogen was originally gonna play the loopy drug dealer, and Franco the straight Dale Denton.

Verdict: Not only an underrated film — an important one. Worth 1.7 theoretical nukes.

Pineapple Express Oscar Bit (2008)

Solid meta-concept. Excellent cameo from cinematographer great Janusz Kaminski (“They made me do it, Mr. Spielberg. It’s really slow in town.”) Still: It’s a sketch. It’s not worth scavenging around a hellish flatland in a hazmat suit like this was goddamn Z for Zachariah or something.

Verdict: Zero theoretical nukes.

“Bound 3” (2013)

This is pretty skimpy, too, yeah, but it’s Kanye-approved. That goes a long way.

Verdict0.2 theoretical nukes.

This Is the End (2013)


Throwing themselves, as “themselves,” on the chopping block — Hollywood actors, “soft as baby-shit,” peevishly freaking out in the middle of the literal biblical Rapture — Rogen and Franco and the rest of the boys mined gold. This Is The End cracked $120 million in the box office and rejuvenated the Judd Apatow–Rogen camp off a distinct overexposure-impacted decline. Also, it has this scene.

Verdict: 0.9 theoretical nukes.

Neighbors (2014)

This is a technicality — Rogen branches out to other members of the Franco family, tapping lil’ bro Davey to play Zac Efron’s frathouse second-in-command in this neon-lit revenge-and-bong-rips extravaganza. So, yes, technically the Franco/Rogen tag still applies. But are we willing to test our second strike capabilities on a technicality? I don’t know, man. The scene in which Rogen and Efron are doing dueling Batman impersonations was pretty funny.

Verdict: 0.3 theoretical nukes

The Interview (2014)

At least by the looks of the trailer, taking the by-now well-established dumb, gushy guy/smarter, irritable guy Rogen/Franco dynamic and catapulting it to insane new heights — CIA-sanctioned assassinations! — seems to have bred a strange, potentially thrilling new hybrid. Bonus points for Lizzy Caplan. Always bonus points for Lizzy Caplan.

Verdict: It’s hard to say for a movie we haven’t actually seen yet, although it would at least be nice if the end of the world waited until after this came out. 0.5 theoretical nukes.

Freaks and Geeks (1999)

Come on. COME ON.

Verdict: An entire Cold War’s supply of theoretical nukes.

Filed Under: Movies, Seth Rogen, James Franco, The Interview

Amos Barshad has written for New York Magazine, Spin, GQ, XXL, and the Arkansas Times. He is a staff writer for Grantland.

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