2014, R, 112 mins.
2014, R, 112 mins.
James Franco as Dave Skylark / Seth Rogen as Aaron Rapaport / Lizzy Caplan as Agent Lacey / Randall Park as Kim Jong-Un / Timothy Simons as Malcolm / Diana Bang as Sook
Directed by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen / Written by Dan Sterling, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldbergrli
a brief period a week or so ago, THE INTERVIEW looked like it was poised
to paradoxically be the most well known/least seen film of 2014.
Seth Rogen/Adam Goldberg written and directed comedy – their follow-up
to their gut-bustingly funny THIS IS THE
END – has a premise that was sure to incite controversy: a
bumbling tabloid TV host and producer are hired by the CIA to covertly
assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un while on assignment to
interview him. Predictably,
North Korea went bonkers over the film and threatened “merciless”
action if the film were not pulled from cinemas. The release of the film was delayed, which lead to Sony
Pictures (the studio behind the film) being hacked by a cyber terrorist
group that the FBI believed had ties to North Korea.
came the threats to North American theaters that would play the film
and…yes…proverbial shit got real for THE INTERVIEW.
conceivably looked like THE INTERVIEW was never going to see a wide
distribution to cinemas at all for its planned Christmas release.
Sony – largely due to five of the biggest cinema chains in
America refusing to play the film in response to the terrorist threats –
pulled the film from release altogether. Days later, they announced a VOD deal for people to screen
the film (which is how yours truly was able to see it) that ultimately
lead to the studio releasing the film in a select number of cinemas in
North America. All of this,
of course, is necessary prologue to discussing the actual film itself,
especially in regards to whether or not all of the massive ruckus that it
caused was justified or not. The
scandalous and polarizing story behind THE INTERVIEW’s troubled release
woes seems to have clouded one important question: Is the film any
good? The short answer
from me would be “yes.” It’s a frequently hysterical Mel Brooks-ian farce that aims
to do just about anything to garner a laugh, but as a film that aims its
crosshairs at shrewd satire, THE INTERVIEW kind of misses the mark.
Rogen and Goldberg aren’t interested, I think, in sobering and
contemplative political discourse; they’re more interested in making an
affectionately (mostly) crude, vulgar, and broad comedy of ill manners
that just happens to use real world political figures.
One could easily disregard the whole controversy of the film and
the resulting media storm it created, seeing as it’s mostly a silly,
inanely over-the-top and innocuous comedy that maliciously picks apart all of its characters, both of the American and North Korean
variety. Yes, the film wisely
reveals Kim Jong-un as – in the end – a dictatorial despot that should
be feared and hated, but THE INTERVIEW is also a damning indictment of the
collective intelligence of…well…the U.S. intelligence community for
trusting a crucially significant mission with global ramifications to
two…doofuses. For the most
part, THE INTERVIEW is an equal opportunity offender: nearly everyone in
the film – regardless of ethnicity – comes off rather pathetically.
thing THE INTERVIEW has going for it in spades is the effortless chemistry
between leads Seth Rogen and James Franco.
They seem to have a swift comedic shorthand and rapport while
making themselves look positively ridiculous throughout.
Franco – wild, unhinged, and feverously hamming it up all over the map while
being endearingly assaultive – plays Dave Skylark, one of those pompous
and arrogant tabloid show hosts that seems to think he’s engaging
in the greater societal good with the sensationalistic show topics he
covers. His BFF and
“Samwise to his Frodo” is his underachieving producer Aaron (Rogen);
he loves what he does and supports his pal, but secretly wishes to
tackle weightier news stories that would give him and his partner more
respectable media credibility.
discovers one day, to his astonishment, that North Korean ruler Kim Jong-un
(Randall Park) loves his show “Skylark Tonight” (he gorges on American
pop culture). This leads to
Dave pleading with Aaron to give him a shot at interviewing the leader on live TV, which the
pragmatist in him realizes would be next-to-impossible.
Yet, through some unendingly complex travel arrangements and
meetings, Aaron is able to secure a trip and a one-of-one interview
with Kim, but when CIA Agent Lacey (the lovely, headstrong, and
spirited Lizzy Caplan) discovers this, she pays an impromptu visit to Dave
and Aaron to ask them if they would be interested in “taking out” the
North Korean dictator. The
haplessly hungover pair insipidly responds, “Take him out…to…dinner?
On the town? To party?”
course, when the dimwitted duo does clue in that the CIA
wants them to kill Kim, they begrudgingly accept, go through some very
quick – but awkward – covert training, and then are sent over to North
Korea to have their fateful meeting with him.
After some initial uncomfortably in the strange country, Dave does
indeed meet the "Supreme Leader of the Democratic People’s Republic
of North Korea" and – wouldn’t ya know it! – seems to take an
intense liking to the thirtysomething Kim. He seems like, I dunno, a fairly cool dude that likes to
shoot hoops, drink Martinis, listen to Katy Perry music (“It’s so
empowering,” the leader states at one point), blast off his big
firearms, and have fun with the ladies; in Dave’s heart, Kim seems more
American than Americans. As
Dave struggles with conflicting emotions as to whether his new friend
deserves to be poisoned to death, Aaron swoops – like the good producer
that he is – for damage control and to steer his pal on the right
track. Granted, when Kim gives Dave a ridiculously huggable puppy as
a gift, Aaron realizes that he has his work cut our for him.
INTERVIEW is a wantonly daft film. To
be fair, it’s also an endless menagerie of infantile scatological humor
with small sprinkles of political commentary and wit.
Yet, as stated, Rogen and Goldberg achieve their intentions of
engaging in a risky do-absolutely-anything-for-a-chuckle goal of
making us laugh. For every
gag that achieves high hilarity there are numerous ones that fall flat (a
scene involving Aaron trying to hide massive CIA steel cylinder up his
rectum seems more desperate than novel), but THE INTERVIEW gets by
considerably on how game Rogen, Franco, and the rest of the cast are for
blatantly delirious tomfoolery. Franco
is a madcap hoot in the film, flailing away madly – both verbally and
physically – in a performance of idiotic, narcissistic glee that works
well against Rogen’s more laid back everyman/straight-man role.
Diana Bang – who shows up as an adorably intimidating North
Korean official that Aaron falls hard for upon first meeting – scores
many laughs in the film for how she, in turn, falls hard for the producer
and begins to question her loyalties to North Korea.
though, the funniest performance in the film is from Randall Park as Kim
Jong-un, who plays the role with the demeanor of a sweet tempered and
soft-spoken manchild that has a huge man-crush on Dave and seems to go to
great lengths to earn his starstruck affection.
If anything, Kim is like a wild and freewheeling fratboy that has
– through his own lineage – been thrust into picking up where his
famous father left off. THE
INTERVIEW hits its comedic plateau when it shows Kim and Dave – both, in
their own respective ways, easy-to-please/simple-minded buffoons –
bonding, which leads to a highly unlikely bromantic love triangle forming
between them and the increasingly agitated Aaron.
Dave, of course, in his newly formed bond with Kim, still naively
parades on with his “Haters gonna hate, and ain’t-ers gonna ain’t”
worldview of himself and those people around him that perceive Kim as
rather wisely, reminds Dave that they were, in fact, hired to kill the
INTERVIEW does manage to lampoon America entertainment TV journalism early
on, especially with two surprise cameos of real life celebs – joyously
mocking their own images – appearing on Dave’s show to reveal the
petty lengths that info-tainment shows like his go to in order to secure
big ratings. THE INTERVIEW
democratically – and uproariously – picks away at its absurdly dumb
characters from multiple countries (it skewers its Western media targets
as well as one of the planet’s most fanatical dictators with equal
aplomb), but I just wished that the film went for the satiric jugular with
more of a ravenous, throw-caution-to-the-wind bite.
Was THE INTERVIEW worth all of the fuss?
Probably not. It’s
batty to think that a cyber terrorist group – and country, for that
matter – would be so vehemently offended by a preposterous and
cartoonish comedy like the one Rogen and Goldberg have made.
Regrettably, though, this frequently uneven, but laugh-out-loud
funny comedy seems destined to be unfairly overshadowed by its release
Perhaps if it were made with marionette puppets like TEAM AMERICA (another comedy that poked fun at North Korean tyrants) then no controversy would have ever existed.