WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
Name one 2014 movie more controversial than The Interview. You can’t. The new satirical sophomore effort from This is the End directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg has put its balls on the table and has taken much heat for it. Were the Sony hackers really from North Korea, acting in revenge for the viral “attack” on their beloved dictator? I don’t know, and at the moment, no one really does. What I do know is that the media coverage of the Sony hacks and the petitioning to get this film released has been something of a movement and I’ve defended its right to be seen since day one. Now, upon its release online via www.seetheinterview.com, hundreds of thousands of people are seeing the movie (maybe millions). Some have questioned whether the whole “Sony hack” was just a stunt to make the movie more money. I don’t believe that one bit, but I do believe that all this media hype has made The Interview one of the most undeserving attention-grabbers of recent memory. It’s satire is there, but never as biting as one would expect from a movie with this much international backlash. But we Americans have done a great thing in defending our right to see the movie (and the studio’s right to distribute it), and the final result, while not as edgy as the marketing would have you believe, is still funny. Really funny.
I won’t spend any time recounting the events of the Sony hack because if you’re reading this, you more than likely already know as much as I do. If you want more on that, go over to The New York Times. Heck, even Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and James Franco’s Twitter accounts have filled us in with a lot. This article is a review of the film itself, not the controversy surrounding it. The Interview follows Dave Skylark (a wacky and brilliant James Franco), an interviewer and the host of Skylark Tonight, a somewhat popular (not really) television show in the US. Among those that do like the show is a certain someone that may or may not be the dictator of North Korea. Yes, Dave and his producer Aaron Rapoport (a restrained and hilariously calm Seth Rogen) discover that Kim Jong-un himself is a fan of Skylark tonight, so they do what any sane person would be in a situation that could get their program more views: they schedule an interview with the ruthless dictator. But when the CIA finds out about this, they decide to set these two up to pull off one of the most important assassinations in US history. They want Kimmy to go bye-bye foreva.
It sounds edgy, I know, and the media wants you to believe that it is. And while the movie isn’t without its satirical hacks on Kim (here he has some serious daddy issues and loves listening to Katy Perry), the movie rarely veers into “oh-wow-this-could-start-a-war” territory. For the most part, this movie defends the people of North Korea (even though it does poke fun at their beliefs about the “immortal” dictator) and makes fun of American media more than anything else. Regarding edginess on the North Korean front, I said “rarely” does anything happen because on occasion, things do happen. The final scene in which Rogen and Goldberg determine the fate of Kim is edgy, and I’m not surprised that people are drawing comparisons to Inglorious Basterds. This is the End had some monster violence and some cool stuff like that, but there are some outbursts of violence in The Interview that stunned me. At one point, Rogen is covered in blood after someone gets shot in the head, point-blank. In another scene, Rogen’s fingers get bitten off. I wish I could show you my facial expression through that scene.
Up until that final scene, the movie goes through a slight string of slumps, especially the middle portion as a whole which lends its focus to Rogen trying to do things behind the scenes, creating the atmosphere of a spy-thriller that doesn’t really work all that well. Still though, when a large portion of that scene was centered on the problem that arises when Rogen has to hide a capsule concealing poison in his anus, I found myself laughing. Actually, I was laughing harder than I thought a seemingly worn-out butt gag could make me. One of the funniest parts of The Interview, to me, was the opening few seconds, in which a little North Korean girl is singing what seems to be a national anthem of sorts for her country. It starts as a beautiful ode to the land, but then escalates to the hatred of America and some of the lines that are featured in that song are gut busting. Also, the movie captures a sweet and funny relationship between Dave and Kim that took me by surprise and was honestly sweet… until the third act. “He fucking honeydicked me! He honeydicked the shit out of me!”
Fine, let’s go ahead and talk about James Franco because he’s totally freaking great in this movie. Seriously, he’s outstanding. His performance in The Interview is one of the funniest of the year, as his zany and wacky side fleshes out the dumb and clueless Dave Skylark. I don’t know if this performance is as good as the one he gave in Spring Breakers, but it’s hilarious and worth the price of admission alone (well, assuming a price of admission exists in your area). On the opposite end is Seth Rogen, giving a calmer performance as Aaron, the stable producer that tries to convince Dave that Kim Jong-un isn’t the nice guy he appears to be. Rogen is excellent, and the two together once again knock it out of the park. They’ve been doing it for years now, and this is no step back. But welcome Randall Park to the party, playing Kim Jong-un better than anyone could’ve expected. I mean it. He’s great. I nominate him for Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars (maybe not that far, but he’s so so so good).
Lizzy Caplan (True Blood, Masters of Sex) is good as the one who pulls all the strings for the operation, and the movie is loaded with awesome cameos (I mean awesome), but it always comes back to Rogen and Franco and their relationship with Park. Even though the film goes through its fair share of slumps and misfortunes, it’s always funny and that’s all I ask for. It isn’t as good as Rogen and Goldberg’s first directorial effort This is the End, nor is it as funny, but it’s funny nonetheless and it’s a fine piece of satire that anyone with a sense of humor will appreciate.
Rated R for pervasive language, crude and sexual humor, nudity, some drug use and bloody violence
Starring James Franco, Seth Rogen, Randall Park, Lizzy Caplan
Written by Dan Sterling
Directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg