Saturday, January 3, 2015

"The Interview": Really Worth All The Fuss?

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The Interview will perhaps go down as having one of the most bizarre releases in cinematic history, and that reputation will probably overshadow anything actually in the film itself.  I don’t want to get into the politics and international ramifications of the North Korean Sony hack or the right to free speech, as my opinions on such are not really relevant to whether the film is good or not.  However, it is worth acknowledging that current events have propelled this film into the limelight, with viewing the film constituting a certain cult status among those wishing to display their patriotism and uphold Sony’s First Amendment rights.  But it is important to realize that the film itself isn’t advocating any of those things, and is, in fact, just another in a long line of Rogen/Franco bromance comedies that just happens to have Kim Jong-un as its villain.

Dave Skylark (James Franco) is the host of an entertainment news show, backed up by his producer, Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen).  Upon learning that the dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong-un (Randall Park), is a huge fan of the show, Skylark and Rapoport contact the dictator for a ratings- and credibility-boosting interview.  After their on-air announcement of the coming show, the CIA contacts Skylark and Rapoport with the intention of sending them to assassinate Kim.  From there, shenanigans ensue, due to Skylark’s buffoonish egomania and gullibility and Rapoport’s self-effacing attempts to keep the mission on-track.

All in all, this is pretty standard stuff, and if you’ve seen anything that Franco and Rogen have collaborated on in the past (Pineapple Express, This Is The End, etc.), then you know what you’re in for here.  This is a bro comedy, with two well-intentioned bumbling guys getting into stoner antics that involve pop-cultural references, physical slapstick, and gross-out humor.  And the film does admirably at that, even if this is neither performer’s A-game.  Randall Park takes a pretty good turn as the infamous dictator, though Kim is portrayed with all the subtlety of a Saturday morning cartoon. 

And really, that’s sorta the point.  There was no geo-political message in mind when Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg wrote and directed this film.  This was just an excuse to get together with some friends and have a good time making a movie, and this was the comedic scenario that they came up with.  Sure, the film does try to treat the plight of the North Korean people with a degree of respect, emphasizing their famine at the hands of a self-proclaimed god.  But this isn’t portrayed with the intention of rallying the U.S. to Korean aid; it acts as an impetus for the resolution of Skylark’s and Kim’s character arcs, the straw that divides the two after scenes of partying and bro-ing it up.  The point wasn’t to tell an intense polemic or even to make a political statement about North Korea that wasn’t already part of the average American consumer’s understanding of the Kim dynasty.  Hell, there probably isn’t much more anti-Kim propoganda here than Team America: World Police, a film that also portrayed a Kim as an over-the-top mustache-twirler only because their reputation makes it so easy to do so.  This is just a bunch of actors poking fun at a world leader, a world leader that already has pop-culture notoriety for his bizarre proclivities and antics.

So is The Interview worth watching?  Yeah, I’d say it is, though if you’re looking for a good Rogen/Franco buddy comedy, this is probably their worst one yet.  But if you’re looking to show solidarity by using your credit card to metaphorically raise your middle finger at Kim Jong-un, I’m sorry to say that this film probably wasn’t as scathing as he thought it was.  It’s just a pretty average comedy, one that was only made noteworthy by the threats to its accessibility.  That legacy will far outlast any jokes that are actually shown on-screen, and maybe that’s the biggest joke of all.

North Korean Sony hack controversy.  Chat away in the comments below.

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