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The Interview

Seth Rogen and James Franco in a detail of the poster for the movie "The Interview."

An infamous movie ad campaign from 1972 urged patrons to keep repeating: “It’s only a movie...only a movie...only a movie.”

That campaign was for the horror flick “The Last House on the Left.” A new comedy about the last country on the far left has pre-emptively horrified some critics, but they need to keep repeating: “It’s only a Seth Rogen movie.”

Rogen, who co-directed and co-stars in this farce, has dwelt in the demilitarized zone between stupid and shrewd since “Knocked Up.” He is catching a lot of flak for “The Interview,” in which he and James Franco go gunning for the leader of North Korea; but within the bloodshot-eye perspective of their other stoner comedies, it’s bluntly funny and ever-so-slightly sweet.

Rogen and Franco can divide half the credit as talk-show producer Aaron Rapaport and empty talking head Dave Skylark, respectively. But the other half of the credit goes to Randall Park as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Aaron and Dave are trying to steer “Skylark Tonight” in a serious direction when they learn that the saber-rattling dictator is a fan of the show. Through back channels, they arrange to travel to Pyongyang and interview the pudgy young man whom North Koreans call “the Dear Leader.”

Comely CIA agent Lacey (Lizzy Caplan) asks the fellows to do the Agency a teensy little favor: poison lil’ Kim.

To impress Lacey, bumbling bubble-head Dave is willing to do the deed — until he meets Kim, who turns out to be an insecure softy with daddy issues and a secret fondness for Katy Perry songs. After a bromantic night of karaoke and courtesans, Dave backs out of the assassination plan. But Aaron learns from sexy chaperone Sook (Diana Bang) that Kim is starving the nation and must be punished on live TV.

If you’ve been following the news about this movie, you might have heard that the last act abruptly veers into violence. Yes, it’s tasteless, but it’s nothing that we haven’t applauded a thousand times before. If the Dear Leader thinks he can re-educate every Yankee imperialist who laughs at crudeness and cruelty, he’ll have to build some bigger prison camps.

‘The Interview’

HHH (out of four)

Rating • R

Run time • 1:52

Content • Pervasive strong language, crude and sexual humor, nudity, some drug use and bloody violence

Joe Williams is the film critic for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.