The Interview

Movie Information

The Story: A moron TV interviewer and his only slightly brighter producer are tapped by the CIA to assassinate Kim Jong-Un when the dictator invites the pair to North Korea. The Lowdown: More a curio than a good movie and of more interest for its notoriety than anything else, The Interview is basically a Crosby-Hope "Road" picture reconfigured for its stars and our times. It's also a lot dumber than a "Road" picture, but is not without some interesting points.
Score:

Genre: Comedy International Incident
Director: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen (Superbad)
Starring: James Franco, Seth Rogen, Lizzy Caplan, Randall Park, Diana Bang, Timothy Simons
Rated: R

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So this is it, huh? This is the movie that spawned all the media madness? That brought Sony to its knees? That sparked something close to an international incident? That caused all sorts of government investigations? That prompted an outburst of armchair — or at least theater seat — patriotic fervor? That even the President weighed in on? Incredible. No, not the movie, the fuss. The movie is mostly mediocre and often less than that, but the fuss — which somehow seems perfect for our time — is just amazing. In fact, the fuss is funnier than just about anything in the movie.

 

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What we have here is basically the stoner version of Bing and Bob — with ramped-up homoerotic undertones — on the Road to Nuclear Provocation. That, of course, is why the movie will have an otherwise undeserved place in history. It may take a certain amount of nerve — or alternatively, obliviousness — to create a movie about the assassination attempt on the living head of a country, but it verges on insanity to undertake one where — this might be a SPOILER for those not following the story — the attempt succeeds. Yeah, I know, Tarantino blithely rewrote history and had Hitler and some of his higher-ups machine-gunned to death in a burning movie house, but by the time he did that, his subjects — and presumably his country — were well past objecting. Hell, even when Universal made their peculiar The Strange Death of Adolf Hitler in 1943 — when no one cared about offending him — the plot to kill the man failed. Not so here. To call the results indelicate is understating the case.

 

Seth Rogen;James Franco;Lizzy Caplan

 

Though it seems unlikely, if you don’t know, the film has tabloid TV “star” Dave Skylark (James Franco) and his producer Aaron Rapaport (Seth Rogen) being invited by fan Kim Jong-Un (Randall Park) to interview him in North Korea. Well, the CIA thinks this is a great opportunity to have these bozos assassinate the dictator. The plan — devised by sexy CIA agent Lacey (Lizzy Caplan) — might actually have been feasible, but she hasn’t reckoned on the level of bozorificness her assassins (especially, Dave) have attained. First, Dave has the special poisoned strip confiscated, necessitating the delivery of a replacement. (This results in a predictable bout of slapstick and anal-intrusion jokes.) Then, Dave inadvertently bonds with President Kim over shared daddy issues and Katy Perry — until he realizes he’s been bamboozled (or “honeydicked” as the film has it). Then…well, you get the idea. It’s basically a lot of dick and fart jokes wrapped around an edgy concept with dollops or dark humor and gore. You know, a battle cry for freedom of speech.

 

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The film, however, is not without points of interest — starting with the bizarre choice of opening with Columbia’s old fanfare music, which the studio dropped after 1934. The depiction of tabloid/entertainment news TV is so spot-on that it didn’t even need to be much exaggerrated for comedic effect. While I think there’s some kind of contractual clause that Rogen and Evan Goldberg will include a dose of homoerotic — but never actively sexual — bonding in their films, there’s some extra mileage here in playing on the public is-he-or-isn’t-he-gay fixation with Franco. (The Eminem interview is a highlight — not only in this area, but as a depiction of entertainment reporters’ apparent blissful unawareness of just about everything.) Unfortunately, most of this — at least the best of this — falls in the movie’s first 30 minutes.

 

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The best thing about the rest of The Interview lies in its depiction of Kim Jong-Un — both in concept and in the portrayal of the character by Randall Park. Whatever else may be said about the film, its portrayal of Kim Jong-Un is pretty remarkable — capturing something of the kind of mood swing insanity found in Chaplin’s The Great Dictator (1940). It can’t quite get there, but the try is a game one in its depiction of the dictator as a lonely man in search of a friend sitting cheek-by-jowl with his tendency toward turning into slavering mad tyrant without a pause. This at least the film gets right. Its descent into protracted slapstick and dumb jokes — not to mention supposedly edgy gore that was a lot more edgy when Richard Lester did it in 1967 in How I Won the War — is another matter.

 

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Also noteworthy is the film’s production design and cinematography — both of which are much better than the movie that contains them. The Interview looks as good as the most elaborate James Bond film — or maybe a big-budget Bond spoof — which its design often resembles. The images are richly detailed with terrific lighting. What’s happening on those sets and in that lighting is too often something else again.

 

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Whether or not the film strikes a blow for free speech, it most certainly strikes one for lowbrow humor and dubious taste. Should you see it? Probably just for curiosity’s sake — and seeing it on the big screen can only enhance the film’s physical impressiveness. Plus, an audience will likely make it play better. Rated R for pervasive language, crude and sexual humor, nudity, some drug use and bloody violence.

 

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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16 thoughts on “The Interview

  1. T.rex

    It’s too bad all that jibber jabber wasn’t over a better, more important film. More proof that IDIOCRACY is coming true??

    • Ken Hanke

      The fuss seems more like Idiocracy than The Interview itself does. I blame the internet.

  2. DrSerizawa

    I’m glad you endured it so I didn’t have to. That’s why they pay you the big bucks.

    I still think it was a PR stunt. The movie would never have made this much $ without it. Look for more of this in the future.

    • Edwin Arnaudin

      Its VOD success is remarkable, but I think even without the “PR stunt” it would have done well in theaters. The box office for This is the End and the subject matter suggest as much. Of course, had it played in theaters after the Sony hacking, its take would be much higher than the current VOD totals.

      • Ken Hanke

        The PR stunt still seems unlikely to me — for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is that $31 million in VOD rentals is a long, long way from this breaking even, assuming that the ca. $60 million cost is correct (and the movie looks good enough that I can believe it). Assuming that figure is right, they need over $120 million to break even.

        • Sally Sefton

          A close friend works at Sony. It was no PR stunt. She said it was a source of mayhem and everyone involved was blindsided by what transpired. She is the picture of integrity and I trust her on this.

      • Ken Hanke

        Realistically, are you actually saying that a movie studio is going to go along with a plan to pull a PR stunt that is going to suck in the FBI, the CIA, and the president? That’s pretty far-fetched. It would also, I think, be a punishable offense of some considerable note.

        • T.rex

          “How do you know who your daddy is??? Because your momma told you so”. You know me, big Oliver Stone fan. Seriously though, I always try to find the most logical answer first. A bigger question though…….after what happened in Paris, should Sony execs put their heads down in shame since they backed down and a small satirical comic book did not?

          • Ken Hanke

            Why should they? The two situations are hardly comparable. If you really want to blame someone, blame the big corporate theater chains — Regal, AMC, Carmike, etc. — for refusing to book the film. Sony was in a lose-lose situation, too. If they didn’t open the film, they were moral cowards. If they did and people got killed, they were greedy monsters only interested in their bottom line. The bottom line is partly where the theater chains were coming from, too. They weren’t about to make people afraid to go to the movies on Christmas, the biggest day of the year. Throw in the possibility — there is so much we have no way of knowing — that the theaters’ insurers were pressuring them into not booking the film.

  3. Ken Hanke

    Well, one week settled its hash. This will be gone come Friday.

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