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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.