The Interview is a Seth Rogen and James Franco comedy about assassinating Kim Jong Un, the Supreme Leader of North Korea. It experienced massive media exposure after the hacking of Sony and subsequent bomb threats demanding it be canceled, allegedly carried out by North Korea. Initially, Sony completely retracted any further release plans for the film. President Obama condemned Sony for doing so, leading them to reverse their decision. It was released online on the 24th, and saw a limited theatrical release Christmas day, as originally planned. Many have called the film out for making a comedy situation out of the suffering of millions, while others just argue its humor is childish. It’s proved itself extremely polarizing to critics, so it’s best to just ignore aggregated scores for this flick (ranging from 9.9 on IMDB to 50/100 on RT).
It’s a Seth Rogen and James Franco Comedy
The opening scene has a girl singing in hope of the destruction of America using lingo definitely not used by North Korea. Later, “imperialist” Cadillac limousines escort the scheming duo within Pyongyang. A North Korean official welcomes them to the “Democratic Peoples Republic of North Korea,” while the real DPRK will insist it is the only legitimate Korean government.
There are many ways The Interview could be more accurate, but that’s not the point. Kim Jong Un has never appeared in an interview and has essentially no personality in the western world. The Interview had to humanize him to both the audience and Franco, creating an entirely fictional, albeit believable, character. There was one “real” feeling moment in the film that explained the truthful “why” of assassinating Kim Jong Un, and a voice of reason from a North Korean defector as to why that would be a terrible, ineffective idea. These two moments made the film more than just a guilty pleasure for me, and remove the worry of trivializing a real world issue.
If you liked This Is The End, Knocked Up, Superbad, and The 40 Year Old Virgin, you’ll probably enjoy it. It’s not nearly as laugh out loud funny as 22 Jump Street, but it certainly lightened my day. Rogen and Franco, and during the manipulatory scenes, Franco and Randall Parker (Kim Jong Un), have good chemistry, and overall the film worked. While making fun of the most despised leadership in the world may not seem too outrageous, after seeing the film I could definitely see it took guts to make, and could cause quite a shakeup if it made its way into the lives of North Korean citizens.
This isn’t the next 50/50, 127 Hours, or The Wolf of Wall Street, three films that put typically less serious actors in award winning roles. James Franco and Seth Rogen have demonstrated they’re content with continuing to do the roles they’re known for. Many will continue to look down on it, but they achieve the highest quality lowbrow movies one can hope for. If you’re going to watch this film, let yourself laugh at the juvenile jokes.
For starters, it is very funny, in the Seth Rogen foul-mouthed, silly way.
And while the propriety of showing a real world head of state being assassinated can be debated – the latest in a long list of political and social boundaries pushed by Hollywood – it also has moments that are surprisingly smart and politically astute.
That is why the North Koreans have reacted so aggressively. Because if this movie is seen by audiences around the world, and if copies are pirated in to North Korea, it is a very real challenge to the ruling regime’s legitimacy.
In The Interview, Seth Rogen and James Franco, as celebrity interviewer and aspirant hard news producer invited to question Kim Jong Un on live TV, openly ask why the country can spend billions of dollars on a nuclear weapons program but needs $100 million in UN aid each year to feed its people.
North Korea’s domestic narrative, where the calendar begins with the birth of Kim Il Sung, the country’s founder, and now lives in the year 103, is explained to show how disconnected the place is from the rest of the world.
There are serious riffs on North Korea’s gulags and horrifying human rights record, decades of famine, brainwashing propaganda, and cartoonish self-importance.
When The Interview veers in to these sociopolitical realities and with some 45 million people worldwide having watched Rogen’s last two movies, it becomes quite subversive to the Pyongyang government.
Rogen and director Evan Goldberg intentionally did not avoid dangerous content. They could have fictionalized an authoritarian country and an egomaniac leader, they could have played Kim Jong Un as bland and one dimensional, or given him a life-saving epiphany. It would have been safer that way, but not credible, and critics who now see the movie as reckless would have seen a vanilla version as naive and apologist.
Satire is a legitimate way to challenge ideas. See films like Bulworth, Three Kings, Dr. Strangelove, Being There or a long list of others that pushed people to think beyond the movie screen, even if uncomfortably, and put issues in front of audiences thousands of times bigger and more diverse than the most widely read op-ed or human rights report. The past weeks have introduced us to a serious new threat which should spur multinational efforts to resolve longstanding Korean Peninsula frictions and hostilities.
The Interview has more smart and substantive moments than most would rightfully expect. The world should see it now, putting the sting of isolation on Kim Jong Un and his government, not the filmmakers behind this subversive and damn funny movie.
These choices in mood and character beg the question: Why involve Kim and North Korea in this at all? In Larry Charles’s superior The Dictator, the filmmakers smartly made Sacha Baron Cohen’s titular ultra-fascist into a fictional amalgamation of recent, real-life tyrants, a storytelling tactic that allowed them to avoid addressing those leaders’ very real crimes with very real body counts from the outset. The Interview is less concerned with such matters, and quickly settles into a cutesy tone, while using Skylark’s unexpected friendship with Kim as a soft metaphor for the power of wealth and self-victimization to veil mass-scale manipulators.
When Skylark arrives at the leader’s compound, he’s plied with drinks, women, drugs, and games, but Skylark bonds with Kim primarily over the dictator’s stresses over his father’s expectations, which is why he listens to Katy Perry’s “Firework” in private.
There’s a faint sense that Rogen and Goldberg see Kim’s exploitations as a grand-scale variation on Skylark’s preference for gossip and sob stories over serious journalism. The Franco character’s final coup is in exposing Kim’s vulnerable side, which the leader saves for his closest staff members and confidants. During the titular sequence, Kim lets the beast out for a moment when he suggests that America is no better than North Korea in certain respects, a sharp point which the film inevitably discards, along with anything else that might insinuate that Rogen and Goldberg are interested in anything other than cock-centered humor. That’s not a knock against this brand of comedy, which certainly has its place, but rather against films like The Interview that use major global issues to cheaply dress up what is two hours of hit-and-miss erection jokes.
Is it funny?
This is basically just Pineapple Express II: The Quest to Assassinate Kim Jong-un—but the humor never quite lands
Still, give the movie credit for effectively mocking a dictator who certainly deserves it. The Interview may not succeed as a true comedy, but it does manage to excoriate Kim Jong-un, particularly in the film’s climactic interview (“Why don’t you feed your people?” Dave asks on live broadcast TV) and his ultimate demise.
I like watching Franco and Rogen together. I think Franco’s joy in playing scenes with Rogen is clearly evident any time the two of them work together. Franco always seems like he’s at his loosest and his most playful when he’s in a scene with Seth, and that’s definitely true here. Randall Park plays Kim Jong-un, and it’s a pretty tremendous comic performance. Because Jong-un is a master manipulator, you’re never quite sure what’s sincere and what’s not when he’s talking, and the nuance of the performance would be tricky for even the most experienced performer. Rogen, who is as close to a straight man as you’ll get in this film, once again proves to be a solid anchor allowing the supporting cast to go as far to the extreme as they want.
By now, it’s become clear that the overriding theme of the work that Rogen and Goldberg are doing is friendship and the various ways this world tests and challenges that. You can look at the surface of something like “The Interview” or “This Is The End” or “Superbad” or “Pineapple Express” and just see the differences between those films, or you can dig into them and see how, essentially, the guys are just working variations on a theme.
Part of me wishes I could hit fast-forward, just so I could peek and see what Rogen and Goldberg are doing ten years from now or twenty or even forty. But honestly, I don’t want to miss each of the steps along the way. “The Interview” is laugh out loud funny all the way through, and once again proves that Rogen and Goldberg will do anything, no matter how dark, for a big laugh, and that character is just as important as punchlines in their work.
So yeah, I did like this silly, over-the-top yet audacious movie that imagines the assassination of Kim, much in the same way Quentin Tarantino imagined the assassination of Hitler in “Inglourious Bastards.”
But no matter what you think of dumb comedies, “The Interview,” thanks allegedly to Kim, has gone from disposable to indispensible cinema. It’s a must-see movie in the context of what has happened, and will spark a discussion of, in comedy, how far is too far?