SOME PARTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD.
The funniest thing about The Interview might be that now we officially have to equate James Franco and Seth Rogen with defending free speech in Hollywood. The situation surrounding this film is near unavoidable when discussing it in any context, since I can’t recall there ever being a film in U.S. history that has provoked such high international tensions as this one. But I want to do my best to just review this on it’s own merits, which to be fair, it does have a few. But this isn’t the glorious beacon of free speech it’s been made out to be. When going in to watch The Interview, you might go in thinking “Yes!! I am defending my right to free speech by watching this.” But you’ll probably finish the film thinking “They made such a big deal over that?!”
Because when it comes down to it, The Interview is a mildly funny, better-than-average Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg film. On my scale, it’s better than Pineapple Express, but not as good as This Is the End. And no, this is not in the same leagues as The Great Dictator or Dr. Strangelove when it comes to political commentaries. If anything, the film is more of a cultural commentary on the American media/news system. The majority of the jokes come at the expense of the American public, and their inept understanding of foreign affairs, more specifically, the ineptitude of Dave Skylark (James Franco), host of “Skylark Tonight,” an almost-amalgamation of Piers Morgan and Entertainment Tonight. The show is produced by Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen), and as with many of the Franco/Rogen films, the story revolves mainly about their growth as friends (bros, if you will. I won’t).
See, Aaron feels that he has lost credibility as a journalist working on “Skylark Tonight,” so when the opportunity to interview Kim Jong-un (the wonderful Randall Park) falls into their laps, this is Aaron and Dave’s chance to be taken seriously. And then there’s the whole “CIA shows up at their doorstep to propose they use this interview to assassinate Kim Jong-un” thing. This operation is led by Agent Lacey (Lizzy Caplan, who does wonders with the poor material she’s given), who Aaron suspects is “honeypotting” Dave, a term which essentially means to seduce someone into doing your bidding. The male equivalent is apparently called “honeydicking.” I’ve never heard these terms before and they are used repeatedly throughout the film. Unfortunately, these constitute as “jokes” here.
Many of the “jokes” in the film consist of unfunny scatalogical humor (Usually of the “dick” and “butt” variety) and the concept that absurd, over-the-top violence is always amusing (the final sequence contains people’s fingers being bitten off in a very gruesome fashion). And of course there are those sequences everyone loves where the actors tap into an amusing joke, and just keep repeating it until it’s not funny anymore (The phrase “They hate us cuz they ain’t us” is glorified as a victory in comedic screenwriting here). Luckily, there are many jokes that do land here (more than I expected, to be honest), and Franco actually does well in the role of an inept, insecure, semi-idiotic talk show host. Who knew.
But then of course there is Kim Jong-un, the reason we’re all here today. Upon viewing the film, I can see why North Korea might not be the biggest fans, and why their reaction to this film is much more aggressive than to a film like, let’s say, Team America: World Police. In Team America, Kim Jong-Il was shown as a super villain, a maniacal genius of Bond-Villain proportions, even if he was depicted as a puppet. In The Interview, Kim Jong-un is, well, humanized. He’s sort of awkward, very insecure, has severe daddy issues, and pretty much acts like a fangirl around Skylark. At his “high points” in the film, he is the despicable ruler and tyrant he wants us to think he is. But at his “lows,” he’s a sniffling crybaby who shits his pants.
Kim Jong-un is brought to life by Randall Park, who I have to say does an excellent job with the “character.” If nothing else, I really hope Park gets a boost from all of this. He delivers some of the funniest lines in the film and gives a rather compelling performance in an otherwise middle-of-the-road motion picture. He truly commits to the bit, and was definitely my personal favorite aspect of the film. I guess it’s sort of fun to see Rogen/Goldberg to use real-life politics as a vehicle for their sometimes-funny mode of comedy. But it really is only sort of fun. If put in another comedian’s hands, there could be some real biting satire at play here. All we get are jokes about butts. Seriously, there are so many jokes about butts in this movie.
So go watch The Interview on YouTube if you like. It’s a decent comedy that could potentially make you chuckle for two hours. But it’s certainly not one for the history books.