North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un (Randall Park) is a closeted Katy Perry fan, has been led to believe Margaritas are a gay drink, and is addicted to an entertainment show featuring a vapid host who gets celebs to reveal deep dark secrets in the Sony Pictures comedy The Interview from writer/directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. Rogen and Goldberg are the team behind This Is The End, a much better comedy overall, and had The Interview not set off a ridiculous reaction by hackers supported by North Korea that escalated to the point where theaters were threatened with attacks if Sony released it as planned, it’s likely their latest film’s lifespan in theaters would have been short and unmemorable.
However, the decision by major theater chains not to screen the film, Sony’s subsequent decision to delay its release, and the rallying around The Interview by independent theater owners which caused Sony to reverse its decision and release it in select locations as well as online made paying to see the movie into a kind of patriot duty. Paying $5.99 to watch it on Youtube or via another online outlet was a way of showing the terrorists they couldn’t win. Taking in a screening at one of the 300ish independent theaters served the dual purpose of showing North Korea they couldn’t hold art hostage and saying thanks to theater owners who committed to making sure the film would get a theatrical run. Of course, there were also Rogen/Franco/comedy movie fans who checked it out simply because they would have seen the film even if it hadn’t caused a firestorm of protest from a country led by a madman. For all the harm the hackers caused Sony and its employees, and for all the hoopla surrounding its nonrelease-then-limited-release, you’d hope the movie at the heart of the controversy would be worth all the fuss. Unfortunately, while The Interview does have some truly funny moments, actually taking in a screening of the movie is a bit of a letdown after all the 24 hour news coverage leading up to its December 24 (online) and December 25 (in theaters) release.
In a nutshell, The Interview‘s about an Inside Edition-type entertainment show hosted by Dave Skylark (James Franco) and produced by Aaron Rapaport (Rogen). After finding out North Korea’s leader is a fan of the show, Rapaport secures an exclusive interview for Skylark in North Korea with Kim Jong-un in hopes of taking the show in a more serious direction. The much-anticipated one-on-one is hijacked by the CIA with an operation led by Agent Lacey (Lizzy Caplan) to enlist Skylark and Rapaport to kill Kim Jong-un.
As expected, Skylark is the absolute worst choice when it comes to assassinating a dictator and much of The Interview involves the bonding between Skylark and the North Korean leader. Basketball’s played, Katy Perry songs are sung, and the two commiserate over their fathers disapproval and unrealistically high expectations, and how that’s messed up their lives. And while Dave’s bonding with Jong-un and putting the leader’s murder on the back burner, Aaron’s busy falling for the sexy propaganda minister (played by Diana Bang) charged with making sure the live broadcast goes off as scripted. Fortunately for the future of the world, Aaron never loses sight of the endgame even while lusting after his North Korean handler.
The Bottom Line:
What The Interview definitely isn’t is a biting political satire. What it is is an R-rated comedy with celebrity cameos, butthole jokes, a huge action set piece, and an adorable puppy. And while the film’s plot centers around the assassination of North Korea’s leader, it’s really about the relationship between Franco’s Dave Skylark and Rogen’s Aaron Rapaport. Franco’s got the over-the-top celebrity interviewer character down pat, mugging like crazy while coming across as surprisingly likable and naive. Also surprisingly likable is Park’s Kim Jong-un, that is until he unveils his true psychotic self.
Rogen and Goldberg could have used a fictional country and leader, but given the jokes in the film it would have been apparent to all – including Kim Jong-un – who the filmmakers had in mind as the target of the assassination attempt. Still, had they opted to switch up the names it might have put less of a bullseye on both the studio and the film itself, but that’s pure conjecture.
The Interview could have lost 20 minutes or so as the pacing slogs down about halfway through. Rogen and Goldberg also relied on so many easy jokes that the script felt a bit lazy. Still, there’s a good amount of laughs in The Interview, including in the opening bit with Eminem and in the finger-biting fight scene in the North Korean control room. But in the end, The Interview just isn’t as funny as the filmmakers’ This Is The End and didn’t deserve all the attention it received leading up to the film’s on-again/off-again/on-again release.
The Interview is rated R for pervasive language, crude and sexual humor, nudity, some drug use and bloody violence.
Running Time: 112 minutes
-By Rebecca Murray
Follow Us On: