Well, I lived to write this review. Despite of the threats aimed at movie theaters that dared to screen The Interview, I summoned the courage to watch it, and I came out unscathed. To be fair, I watched it in the comforts of my own living room for $6.99 on YouTube, but I digress. After watching the latest film by the duo James Franco and Seth Rogen, all I can say is that the headline surrounding a group of cyberterrorists, presumably North Koreans, hacking into Sony’s network and unleashing embarrassing emails is a more thrilling narrative than the film itself.
James Franco plays Dave Skylark, the host of Skylark Tonight, a popular tabloid show that manages to get Eminem to come out of the closet. Seth Rogen plays Aaron Rapaport, Dave’s best friend and the producer of the show. After an old college buddy questions his journalistic integrity, Aaron believes it is time for the show to do something more hard-nose and penetrating than Rob Lowe’s pathetic comb over. Dave is content though with the tabloid fodder because it is boosting the ratings. However, after discovering that Kim Jung-un is a huge fan of Dave Skylark, Dave tells Aaron that they can kill two birds with one stone. Not only will this send the ratings into the stratosphere, they will get the first and only dibs on the reclusive Supreme Leader. Upon hearing this news, Agent Lacy (Lizzy Caplan) and the CIA decide to take advantage of this opportunity and use Dave and Aaron to assassinate the Supreme Leader. The plan is to send ricin into Kim Jun-un’s system when Dave and Kim shake hands for the interview. As you would expect, complications arise.
Upon arriving at Pyongyang, Dave and Aaron see that North Korea is not the poverty stricken nation they were led to believe. The supermarkets are fully stocked. Fat children are eating voraciously and waving joyously at incoming guests. The biggest misconception of all is the man of the hour, Kim Jong-un (Randall Park). He is a shy, insecure leader that gets immediately star struck by Dave. He is not the dictator the United States has painted him to be. Kim Jung-un and Dave immediately hit it off as they intimately share personal stories about their fathers; they drive a tank while dancing to Katy Perry’s “Firework;” they play basketball in Kim’s personal basketball courts, which I am sure Dennis Rodman has gotten his share of workout. These are the moments that make the film shine. I will not further spoil the plot but I will say the film goes downhill from here on out.
Unlike Pineapple Express, which is the best film from Franco and Rogen’s partnership, The Interview suffers because of the lack of chemistry from the two stars. What made PE simultaneously endearing and comedic is that you have two different characters united only by their love of ganja as they attempt to escape from a dangerous drug lord. There is room for their relationship to flourish as the film progresses. In The Interview, the only real source of conflict involves slapstick shticks like Aaron deciding whether or not to hide a tiny metal capsule in his rectum. As a matter of fact, the best moments in the film rarely involve the two protagonists. The most memorable scenes involve Dave & Kim Jung-un and Aaron & Sook (Diana Bang), one of Kim’s most trusted propagandists.
Rogen and Franco’s performances were simply not up to par with their previous films. Rogen is getting repetitive and tiresome. Frankly, I’m looking forward to his portrayal of Steve Wozniak in Jobs. Franco’s performance borders on caricature as he overacts in nearly every scene he is in. Without question, it is Randall Park’s sublime portrayal of the reclusive Supreme Leader that saves the film. Park, who will star in the upcoming television series Fresh off the Boat, plays Kim Jung-un with a maniacal innocence that is both funny and menacing. There is every reason for Park to overdo his performance but he keeps a perfectly balanced note. He can be simultaneously subtle and loud. The real Kim Jung-un should be flattered by Park’s brilliant performance.
With that said, it is important to address the elephant in the room regarding Sony’s hacking and the 9/11 threats. While I can empathize with those who believe Sony deserves to be chastised and punished for making a film about the assassination of a living foreign leader, it is still our right to judge the film for ourselves. North Korea and these cyberterrorists have no right to censor the film for us. The real shame though is that they have every right to abhor this movie because it is just not very good. It baffles me that some critics have compared The Interview to Dr. Strangelove when the film lacks any sort of biting satire. Instead, The Interview joins the ranks of movies such as Red Dawn and Olympus Has Fallen, movies that reveal our unwarranted growing anxiety over North Korea. In order to be a great satire, The Interview should be less about our enemies overseas and more about our own misconceptions and angst. Satire reveals more about us than them. Instead, The Interview is just a vehicle for crass and nauseating jokes that never translate to real laughs. The real comedy though is the irony of the situation. Kim Jun-un’s backlash against the film was a serious miscalculation because it simply helped promote a movie that was otherwise forgettable.