The Interview (2014)

Directors: Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg

Starring: James Franco, Seth Rogen, Lizzy Caplan, Randall Park, Diana Bang

If the leadership of the People’s Republic of Korea feels so threatened by one silly American film, then perhaps they’re weaker than we thought. On the other hand, if idle threats from a source claiming to be working on their behalf can cause that one silly American film to be pulled from its intended theatrical release, then maybe the United States doesn’t possess the pair of brass balls we’re always boasting about. Only a month ago, “The Interview,” the latest in a line of cheerfully vulgar comedies featuring either Seth Rogen, James Franco or both, was the focal point of a massive hacking scandal directed at Sony, the film’s distributors. After several theater chains pulled the movie from their screens, Sony felt there was no other choice but to acquiesce to the demand of these cyber-terrorists, who were threatening everything from attacks on theaters to targeting the family members of Sony employees. While on the surface this would seem like a prudent course of action, potentially saving lives and whatnot, dig deeper and it looks more like an attempt to escape liability… a little less noble.

Dave Skylark (James Franco) is a popular American talk show host. He’d love to work for “60 Minutes,” but isn’t taken seriously enough. Despite his ability to draw well-kept secrets from his celebrity guests such as Rob Lowe and Eminem, among others, he’s regarded by colleagues as belonging just one step removed from the “Extra” or “TMZ” crowd. The big chance he’s been looking for falls into his lap when it comes out that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is an avid viewer and would love to conduct an interview. Dave’s longtime producer, Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen) makes the necessary arrangements in a overly elaborate meeting with Sook Yung Park (Diana Bang) in middle-of-nowhere China. In what seems like no time at all, the planned interview has caught the attention of the CIA. Agent Lacey (Lizzy Caplan) enlists Dave and Aaron in a mission to assassinate the North Korean leader. All they have to do is shake the man’s hand, and an adhesive strip containing ricin will take care of the rest. If it were really that simple, the movie would be over in half an hour.

Armed with the ricin strip, Dave and Aaron arrive at their destination in North Korea. Immediately, Dave’s strip is found in his bag, which he blows off as simply being a foul-tasting piece of chewing gum. Unfortunate for the bodyguard, who immediately puts it in his mouth to test it. The CIA is forced to covertly send two more strips (just in case the guys screw up again) in a scene which provoked what was for me one of the movie’s biggest laughs where Aaron, who has gone outside Kim Jong-un’s compound to retrieve the package, comes face to face with a tiger!

Getting to know the North Korean leader, Dave is beginning to have second thoughts about the mission, thinking that Kim Jong-un has been greatly misunderstood by the United States. Among the typical daddy issues, Kim Jong-un is revealed to also be a closet Katy Perry fan. Indeed, Perry’s hit song “Firework” plays a pivotal role in “The Interview.” Aaron, in the meantime, has his own hands full with Sook Yung Park, who is not only attracted to him, but is also one of those secretly looking for a way to bring about freedom to her country. Ultimately, the group rejects the CIA’s plan to murder Kim Jong-un and do them one step better by going against his pre-planned line of questioning, thereby exposing him as an everyday human being and breaking the built-up mystique created by both his father and grandfather before him to maintain their family’s decades-long stranglehold on North Korea. How very “Frost/Nixon” of them.

“The Interview” is sure to appeal to three kinds of people: those attracted by its reputation, fans of James Franco and Seth Rogen, and those who appreciate lowbrow comedy. If you meet all three, then there ought to be plenty to keep you entertained. Anyone familiar with the Rogen/Franco stoner comedy “Pineapple Express” will find this movie’s casual attitude towards violence and sexual innuendo quite familiar. The duo is definitely the driving force of “The Interview,” with special nod to Franco. Given a choice between them, I’d say “Pineapple Express” is the funnier of the two pictures. I do, however, admire “The Interview” for its take-no-prisoners approach. “Safe” comedy is boring comedy.

I’m of the opinion that any film, no matter how good or how terrible, deserves a chance to be released so that the individual can decide whether or not it might be worth their time. In the case of “The Interview,” despite my admiration for its two leads, I remained unswayed by its premise. Take away the uproar over its content, which captured the kind of national media attention which the film could never have otherwise hoped to generate on its own, and I would probably have elected to skip it all-together. But that’s ultimately the whole point, not whether the movie is “good” or “bad” (creativity helps), not whether it’s too offensive (no such thing!), but that we are not denied the right to choose.

  1. says:

    Awful flick and this coming from guys who nominated Hoodrats 2 for an academy award!

  2. Sylvia Williams says:

    Well done. I agree 100%.

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