Of all the cinematic genres to try and master, comedy is probably one of the hardest. Not only do different people have different senses of humour, but you have to contend with talent who perhaps don’t work well with comedy, or work best with one certain approach. It’s all a bit of a mine field.
Seth Rogan is a familiar face on the comedy scene, breaking through in the early to mid 2000’s with hits like Knocked Up and Pineapple Express, his films can be fun, yet somewhat formulaic. His sense of humour can best be described as juvenile stoner at its worst, yet he possesses a certain charm to his delivery that makes him hard to dislike.
This film comes to us from Rogan’s own production company, that he shares with Evan Goldberg, and sees him play a stoner who’s also a bit of a slacker, truly pushing the envelope of his range as always, alongside Charlize Theron, a surprising addition to the usual Rogan formula, it must be said.
Fred Flarsky (Rogan) is a fiercely liberal-minded journalist, who finds himself jobless after the publication he works for is taken over by a media conglomerate. At a party, he comes across his former baby-sitter Charlotte (Theron) who is now US Secretary of State, and they rekindle their friendship.
As outwardly ridiculous as the story seems, it does have its charms, I must admit.
Rogan is ostensibly playing the same part he always plays, yet it hasn’t yet worn as thin as other actors who re-tread old ground. He’s charming and likeable enough to be getting away with this material when many others wouldn’t, and there were times when he made me laugh, very loudly and unashamedly, which is all you can ask of a comedy really.
The story may be utterly absurd, completely unsubtle in its caricatures of right-wing pundits and politicians, and predictable, but it also has a fair amount of heart.
There’s a reason Rogan has been able to wheel out the same act time and again, because it resonates with audiences, he’s the big-screen every man that a lot of us recognise from our everyday lives, not to mention his tone and delivery here of the dialogue and situations are spot-on, he carries his load in the character department as well as the comedic one.
I also very much enjoyed Theron stepping out of her comfort zone, even at times holding her own with Rogan’s antics, the sight of her previously buttoned-up politician partying it up at a Paris night club, and the aftermath of those events, spring to mind. She throws herself into the comedy with commendable aplomb, and combats the ridiculousness of the situations her character faces head-on.
The cast as a whole is a strong one, in truth. Bob Odenkirk (Saul from Breaking Bad) plays a very thinly-veiled parody of the President, someone who was famous on TV before ascending to the Presidency, and who is stepping down to go into films, the characters obliviousness is played incredibly well. Also in a notable role is Andy Serkis, who plays media mogul Parker Wembley under heavy prosthetics, such heavy prosthetics that I didn’t realise it was him. Once again he is a barely disguised jab at right-wing media that is unsophisticated, yet still funny, and slimy in equal parts.
I don’t think anyone was expecting this film to re-invent the wheel, and it doesn’t. It provides the usual laughs you can expect from a Seth Rogan vehicle, a mix of light drug humour, and sophomoric jokes about bodily functions, but truthfully that’s only really the surface of this film. As I said, the film made me laugh fairly often, sometimes very loudly, and it also has a surprising heart to its tale, something I wasn’t really expecting.
In conclusion, if you’re a fan of Rogan’s work, then this will seem familiar, but welcome. For those who maybe don’t know him so well will find a fine introduction to most of his performances, filled with a lot of laughs, and a deceptive heart to carry the film to surprising heights.