Now that the fuss has died down, and The Interview is now on Netflix, we really need to better understand a dirty little film called ‘The Interview’ as it has entered the sphere of international relations with a potential nuclear armed nation. Is it worth the hype?
First off, a brief overview of something that happened last month you already likely forgot. A major hack on Sony Pictures was conducted in December that exposed sensitive information, while leaving a threat to others that insult the Great Leader Kim Jong Un, including movie theatres that showed the film, that demonstrated a poor command of English. People assumed this was North Korea, because it has the M.O., but Sony has been hacked many times and the Defense Department was quick to make the call. In either case, they got the blame and Sony caved to theatres cowering, pulling it out of a wide release before caving again and showing it in a limited release and through YouTube and other digital release. During the process Obama weighed in and the Beltway Pundits talked about it for a week before moving on to the next useless topic. Now it comes to Netflix.
Seth Rogan, James Franco and the production teams that have been coalescing around them since the seeming demise of the Judd Apetow era (ie: 40 Year Old Virgin, Leaving Sarah Marshall, etc.) have become nearly as disgusting and self-degrading as the Farralley Brothers knock-off era that preceded them. After parodying the Christian Rapture and Hollywood shallowness in “This is the End”, and getting away with a very sick and twisted film that was genuinely funny, albeit bizarre, overtly violent and sexually misguided, they took a harder crack at a more substantive subject and attempted to even be political.
I have seen Rogan on Real Time with Bill Maher, who also is a producer of the film, though he has always come off as too stoned or too stupid to contribute, the previous likely being the explanation. The more realistic answer is that Seth Rogan is an incredibly smart man who navigated Hollywood and became successful and too smart or too chicken-shit to wreck a good thing. This may be just speculation, though it seems this very issue appears in Rogan’s character in “The Interview”, as the film character struggles with the reality of making low brow entertainment, just as real life Rogan perhaps worries about making films about masturbation, pot, anal demons (no joke) and some kind of odd use of crazy violence to make people laugh without any substance, consistently in the vein of Pineapple Express
The end result is every bit as stupid as you think it would be and may Kim Jung Un bless them for it!
Generally panned, with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 53%, I was expecting to hate this film. None of those critics likely remember Oscar nominee Jonah Hill getting anally possessed by a giant hellfire demon (How they forgot it is anybody’s guess). I, however, am not above getting to the anal-retentive (pun intended) nitty-gritty, so let’s get started.
This time, much of the gratuity that takes away from the Rogan and company films is toned down but on full display here. Sex. drugs, violence and black comedy references are on parade right from the start. There is an Ecstasy fueled binge in the first 10 minutes that while brief and mostly explored verbally has strong sex humor. So if this isn’t your cup of tea, then I think someone has done something to your tea or you wouldn’t be reading this.
In the meantime, James Franco does an awful parody of an Excess Hollywood host. They may have gone far over the top to not offend the many people they would have to speak to in order to sell the film, or Franco just decided to drop his act tremendously over-the-top for the sake of comedy. In either case, he misses the mark and the opportunity to trash the soul-less beings that inhabit the E! Network and other Hollywood suck-up shows trends toward a more decadent and stupid line. I found him a bit annoying at first, though there are lots of celebrity cameos with some genuinely funny moments to get you through those parts, and Franco does begin to grow on you with his characters naive and ignorant view of the world.
That leaves Rogan to carry the weight of the early part of the film, as cheap sex and drug jokes pad the segue into absurdity, pushed forward by the usual ridiculous plot that only makes sense if it’s funny. Rogan’s character, Aaron Rapaport, meets with an old college peer who works at 60 Minutes. He puts Rapaport down as a brainless smut peddler. Prompted to make something of his life, he get’s Franco’s character, Dave Skylark, to try for something serious. Once it is discovered that Kim Jong Un is a fan of the show, they attempt to make contact. It works of course and the CIA, headed by Lizzy Caplan’s Agent Lacey is getting the duo involved in an idiotic assassination plot that sounds as idiotic as many of the things the CIA actually tried against Castro.
Even without the Apetow heartfelt blah blah blah the film manages to find a little decency in its characters. Rogan is a man who sold his soul for cheap thrills and genuinely cares for his Franco production as he stands by his pal. Together they go after the useless stories that are well covered in today’s time, only taken a step forward of course for laughs. They even have rapper Eminem and actor Rob Lowe to sell how ridiculous the E-Hollywood BS actually is
Soon they are off to North Korea and led around by chief media propagandist, Sook, acted very nicely by Diana Bang. Rapaport falls for Sook, while Skylark falls for Bernard Park’s President Kim. Needless to say, the conflict in the film begins there and without getting into any spoilers, the film careens toward a major climax in the “interview” itself.
The film’s shining star is Bernard Park, who plays Kim Jung Un. He is funny, though not a parody. You can see the insecure nature of Un and how he is capable of great evil. His heartfelt rich boy entitlement problems play into the story well and you find yourself torn as is Franco, for a time, yet ultimately you see him for the monster he is.
As the film’s hi-jinks then kick into high gear, all kinds of crazy violence, overly emotion and a splattering or two of sexual deviancy keep the film going. In proper form, there is even a few anal jokes.
Not to say the film doesn’t address the issues of North Korea, it does. It just never rises above the same crap a guy at a local bus stop could tell you. Starving Koreans you never see, prison camps you hear someone mention and the lavish lifestyle of Kim Jong Un.
In the end, the film, as a comedy has a few good laughs, a few good awkward moments and some genuine entertaining parody. As anything more than a few cheap laughs, it never rises to Jon Stewart levels or anything, though hopefully you were not / are not expecting anything that heavy from a film duo most famous for playing two stoners who take on a mafia. The most intellectually stimulating part of this film is the amazingly designed end credits that spoof the North Korean propaganda in amazing ways. Brilliant design on that part!
All in all, I managed to sit through two viewings of the film (Hitchcock’s standard that all films should be measured) though it’s definitely more “Hot Tub Time Machine” then a witty satire.
Cheap laughs, mindless fun, short, pissed of a North Korean dictator.
Cheap laughs, nothing of any real sustenance. Feels like a missed opportunity.
Can withstand two viewings?:
Would I watch it again? :
If I had to.
It hits all the right notes but feels a bit like a pop song you’ve heard a million times in the end. You may laugh, you may have fun, you may forget it, though I suppose that is the point. If you’re looking for mindless fun, you won’t be disappointed. Looking for anything more, look elsewhere because there is no way this film could or was ever intended to live up to the hype it managed to create.