The most controversial aspect of the upcoming Seth Rogen-James Franco movie The Interview is probably that the whole thing revolves around a plot to kill Kim Jong-un, but the trailer shows that at least one of the jokes is familiar territory for the two comedians. (Or whatever Franco is.)
Toward the end of the trailer, which gives audiences a glimpse at the Pyongyang hijinks, Franco's character narrates: "As the two best friends stared each other in the eyes, they knew that this might be the end of the long road, and even though neither one could say it out loud they were both thinking." They both mouth: "I love you." The joke of course being that two grown men saying "I love you" is inherently funny.
This gag is a favorite of Rogen and his co-writer and co-director on the project, Evan Goldberg. Two men admitting their feelings for one another is one of the central moments of Superbad, the first feature the two wrote together.
The same joke was also used in the recent Neighbors, which starred Rogen and was executive produced by Rogen and Goldberg. In a pivotal scene characters played by Zac Efron and James Franco's brother Dave have a moment that teeters on the edge of romance. Outside of the context of any one film Rogen and Franco also love poking fun at the nature of their relationship, always hinting that it crosses over into something more than friendship. During filming of The Interview, the two made their infamous parody of Kanye West's "Bound 2" video. Franco painted nudes of Rogen. (It was a comment on art.)
But the trailer and its "I love you" moment come at an interesting time for the bromance, with the release of 22 Jump Street, a movie that also focuses on a relationship between two dudes that's purely platonic, but echoes a romantic relationship. In her review of the movie for Slate, Dana Stevens explained that "several scenes got me thinking about the future of the straight male buddy comedy, which has long depended on Friends-style “hey, we’re not gay” jokes—the kind that poke fun at male heterosexual insecurity, while also cordoning off same-sex love as an impossibility so remote as to be comical." Stevens wondered: "As same-sex marriage becomes more common and anti-gay slurs (hopefully) more socially stigmatized, what will become of this brand of lighthearted bromophobia? The superfluity of that therapy scene—and a few others centering around the same played-out joke—made me wonder if it may be time for the bromance to evolve or die."
When Superbad came out back in 2007 the "love" scene between Jonah Hill and Michael Cera's characters (who are, yes, named Seth and Evan) felt novel and even sweet. But after years of the likes of Rogen and Goldberg and other members of their comedic generation—let's not forget the movie called I Love You, Man—using declarations of love between dudes who are best friends as a trope, moments like the one used in The Interview trailer feel hackneyed. Of course, this is just the trailer, and maybe the full movie will add something new to the bromance genre. We still know little about these characters or their journey in the film, so we'll have to wait to see the full context when the movie comes out in October.