If you haven’t taken up life underneath a geological feature, you must be aware of the James Franco/Seth Rogen comedy The Interview. Kid dropped the $15 on Google Play to own it, and then he came downstairs, laughing himself silly, and insisting we needed to see it. Like any 15-year-old these days, his sense of humor is attuned to the coarse, even crude comedies being made now, and this one was right up that alley.
Except for one thing: it was funny.
The laughs begin with the opening, as a cute Korean girl sings a beautiful song, with lyrics (rendered in English subtitles) that start off as typical our-lovely-country anodyne patriotism but soon take a new direction that’s completely at odds with the adorable kid and the pretty melody.
The plot has been telegraphed in many a news story, as well as the trailer: a vain and shallow late-night-show host, Dave Skylark (Franco), and his equally juvenile producer Aaron Rappaport (Rogen), win a chance to interview Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un — which becomes a chance to assassinate him, because while nobody in Hollywood has the least awareness of anything the CIA actually does, everyone on the better side of Pasadena knows it’s an assassination shop, right?
Look, roll with it. The story is less plausible than a Disney cartoon, and those are based on fairy tales, for crying out loud. Nobody watches this for the plot. You watch to see a Franco/Rogen buddy film, and to laugh that part of your anatomy that too many of the jokes will be about clean off.
Acting and Production
James Franco is a remarkably flexible actor, who loses himself in his parts, in this case Dave Skylark, a shallow simpleton of a TV personality who has a shallow, simple show. TV viewers being who they are, it’s a huge hit. In the opening scenes, he helps a very unlikely celebrity break the news that he’s gay (we won’t spoil it), and then we learn that it’s his and Aaron’s 1,000th show together — 10 years on the air. Dave is shallow all the way down, but Aaron is troubled by doubts about the seriousness of what he’s doing — even as he revels in it. Numerous small details from the first act go dormant in your mind, but they’ll be fulfilled in the third.
If you’ve seen Pineapple Express you’ve seen similar performances from Rogen and Franco, with Rogen’s character the one struggling to occasionally act like an adult (and often falling short), and Franco’s not even trying. They’re great as a buddy pair, and better in this dopey comedy than in Pineapple’s doper comedy, which could have been done by Cheech and Chong. (The problem with Cheech and Chong is that, unlike Rogen and Franco, doper comedy is all they could do).
There are several breakout performances by minor actors. The one everyone’s talking about is Randall Park, who’s killer as Kim Jong-Un, a complex part with layers of layers.
Accuracy and Weapons
This is probably not the right movie to pick if we’re going to key on accuracy, and there’s a rather minimal attempt to make things accurate. Yes, the Norks do have Soviet-style weapons, including a T-55 tank (complete with Cyrillic stencilling), but there is more of an attempt to get the Gestalt of North Korea and its armed forces than to nail any particular details.
There are a few pieces of Western equipment imitating Nork gear, including a Sikorsky S-61 helicopter and VW Type 183 Iltis jeeps, some of which go head to head with the T-55. Would it be a spoiler to tell you who wins?
American weapons include a bizarre assassination poison, that is basically a plot device, and a drone armed with a gadget whose basic raison d’être is another plot point.
Indeed, all the weapons used in the film are there to serve certain plot points.
The bottom line
We’d have urged you to see the movie anyway, on defense-of-free-speech principles. But the fact is that we went from laughing, to chuckling and chortling, back to laughing, to roaring with laughter. It is a modern comedy, meaning there’s a lot of unnecessary foul language and a lot of superfluous sex and gross-out content. But it’s a funny comedy.
At the movie’s end, we felt well entertained and didn’t grudge Franco and Rogen (and Evan Goldberg, who shared directorial duties with Rogen) the time. It was an extra sweetener that Kid bought us the movie with money he made at his own job.
Some people find North Korea to be not especially funny. The comical Kims have had a lot of real human victims, and it’s hard to see the laughter in that. Well, we don’t think Charlie Chaplin thought Hitler was really a barrel of laughs when he made The Great Dictator, either. But we think he was on to something. The Norks’ thin-skinned reaction to the film shows that it was right on target. (As do Sony’s and the exhibitors’ craven capitulation). If you want serious news about North Korea, the Volokh Conspiracy has a story about a lawsuit that shows just what sort of man Korean princeling Kim Jong-Un is, and just what sort of principality he rules. The Conspiracy’s Jonathan Adler quotes from the DC Circuit Court of Appeals’s judgment:
Admissible record evidence demonstrates that North Korea abducted Reverend Kim [no relation to the royal family -Ed.], that it invariably tortures and kills political prisoners, and that through terror and intimidation it prevents any information about those crimes from escaping to the outside world. Requiring a plaintiff to produce direct, firsthand evidence of the victim’s torture and murder would thus thwart the purpose of the terrorism exception: holding state sponsors of terrorism accountable for torture and extrajudicial killing.
Yes, dictatorships are serious business indeed. That’s why our best comedians need to be lampooning them. Please reward Seth Rogen and James Franco (and their whole cast & crew) for making The Interview. See their movie.
But if a scheduler for Dave Skylark calls you, you’re not in, m’kay?
For more information
These sites relate to this particular film.
- Amazon.com DVD page :
Not available yet. Try on Google Play:
- IMDB page:
- IMFDB page:
- Rotten Tomatoes review page: it has a 49%, “rotten,” rating, driven down by pro critics like Evan Burr at The Boston Globe who are trying to curry favor with the Norks or something.
- Wikipedia page: