It isn’t often that I can tag a movie whose approach to comedy is essential dick and fart jokes as “Politics and News” but it also isn’t every day that a cinematic comedy duo is deemed the enemies of the North Korean State. In the case of The Interview starring Seth Rogan and James Franco, the Politics and News aspect of the film has provided more attention to the film than any media campaign possibly could. Following the purported North Korea hack of the movie’s studio, Sony Pictures, and the following flame war that has seen North Korea without internet for days to the controversy surrounding the movie’s release, The Interview is probably the most talked about movie of 2014. It has sparked debate about how a foreign entity has influenced our film industry to the security of our internet. Many have criticized Sony for pulling the movie as cowardly, others still the movie houses that refused to show it after caving to threats of “9/11 style” attacks on movie theaters.
Under immense pressure in the media after pulling the movie, coming from up on as high as President Obama and as common as Facebook trends, Sony has tried to save their reputation…weakly. Releasing the embattled movie on Christmas Eve across a number of outlets including Google Movies and YouTube there are a slew of people touting their “patriotic duty” to watch it. That is probably faulty logic…your patriotic duty is wholly unbound to slapstick comedy. Max Fischer makes an interesting argument about this at Vox, though not entirely perfect he outlines a solid argument that the “patriotic duty” mindset actually works more in the favor of North Korea than the United Stated.
Furthermore, the movie would have likely been forgettable (especially in the terms of geopolitical conversation) rather than the centerpiece of a complicated propaganda war. That said though, arguments that movie is horrible are overstated. While its probably fair to say that Seth Rogan has been chasing Superbad and Knocked Up, his directorial debut isn’t awful. The movie begins with its highpoint funny scene including a cameo by Eminem and a later one including Rob Lowe–and while it isn’t entirely downhill from there it is the peak.
Franco’s character Dave Skylark is somewhere between a cable news pundit and an E! Network interviewer getting celebrities in Barbara Walters situations, while his producer Aaron Rapparort starts to feel the burden of not being a real journalist. Rogen and Franco participate in some overtly self indulgent behavior including a night lost in the haze of Ecstasy pills that resumes in a morning rousing by CIA Agent Lacy who goes on to “Honeypot” him into taking the task of assassinating the dictator of North Korea, Kin Jong-un. The movie progresses from there in a mix of predicting itself and surprising the viewer with raunchy scenarios.
The film is surprisingly engaging despite the complete self-indulgence of James Franco and the exact same performance as ever from Seth Rogan. The movie takes several weird thematic feel changes: it begins feeling like Knocked Up, switches to a James Bond parody (complete with Dick Tracy watches), and ends up as a Tarantino style movie not unlike Inglorious Basterds sans gravitas. By the end the movie has moved from scatagorical explicative comedy to a violent bloodbath with sophomoric humor.
While the movie treats us to a comedic and at first affable villain in Randall Park’s Kim Jong-un, we slowly begin to see the man behind the curtain through a series of largely unbelievable moments ranging from a margarita, basketball, and tank set heart-to-heart to a sudden cartoonish tirade in a restaurant. The movie manages to make the ruler of North Korea seem at once terrible and immature; damaged by a lineage of obsessed dictators. Its climactic scene of the actual interview is perhaps the part that generated the most ire in North Korea if they happened to obtain a copy of the movie rather than overreacting to the premise.
The complete destruction of the god-like image of Kim Jong-un there leaves viewers in an absolute state of wonder, asking themselves “Can you imagine if this actually happened?” and the answer of course is “No, not even Chuck Jones could have imagined a world where this happened and he wrote scripts for the Road Runner and Bugs Bunny.” But, that is the fun of the movie and it has been preposterously overblown in the media propaganda and patriotism war.
At the end of the day, I could have probably lived my whole life without seeing this movie and not thought of it again. I probably would have watched it on Netflix this June or July or whenever it hit the streaming service in the natural course of its life and had a few chuckles. I don’t know how much money this movie will lose by way of this streaming and limited-run release…but it will certainly have all the more notoriety than it ever did before. It does leave me wondering about the propaganda war however, and if even entertaining the conversation of this movie is lending power to the regime of Kim Jong-un…but seeing the movie certainly doesn’t make bald eagles fly out of your television either. For God’s sake, theres a scene that involves a wild tiger and a suppository…its not exactly Chaplin’s dictator here.
You could have probably switched out the villain here for any from a 1980s Saturday Morning cartoon without missing a beat.
The bottom line is, if you like Seth Rogan movies…see this movie. If you feel it’s your patriotic duty to see this movie you’d be better off buying war bonds or writing a letter to your local representative about an issue that means something to you; this movie ain’t your flag to swing. It is entertaining, irreverent, and at the end of the day the bare minimum of political satire. If curiosity has the best of you and you aren’t expecting a life changing event, go for it…if not just see it for free eventually.