Late in the film there’s a ludicrous, emotional scene between Franco’s character, an American news personality-jackass, and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un (Randall Park), that reminds us what Franco can do when he gets serious and subtle. His palpable sorrow almost makes the weak East-West jokes pop. Early in the film, and for much of it, he is simply trying too hard. Imagine James Dean aiming for Will Ferrell speed and pitch. In Franco’s relentless hyperactivity I sense immense fear, of not supplying enough energy to this gargantuan film, of not giving Rogen enough to volley back. It’s as misguided as Leonardo DiCaprio’s yelping lizard in “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
Seth Rogen, on the other hand, hangs out. The credits list him as a co-director and producer, but he wears none of the presumable stress of those duties in his performance. His naturalness serves the chatterbox dialogue a lot better than Franco’s general muppet approach.