REVIEW: The Interview

26 12 2014

Separating the movie “The Interview” from the international event that its release has become feels futile, if not entirely impossible.  Ironically, writers and directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (as well as their screenwriter, Dan Sterling) almost seem to anticipate the ramifications.  “In ten years, Ron Howard is gonna make a movie out of this,” proclaims James Franco’s TV personality Dave Skylark after scoring a sit-down with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

He – or perhaps maybe Ben Affleck – will have quite the material for a high-stakes thriller, yet all of it comes from the story outside “The Interview” rather inside of it.  The film offers pretty much what could be expected of any Seth Rogen comedy, which is namely crude jokes about pop culture, women, and buttholes.  It just happens to reside in the same film as a satire which depicts the assassination of a sitting world leader in good fun.

This is not “Inglourious Basterds” where (SPOILER) Hitler gets riddled with bullets to rapturous cheers from the crowd.  “The Interview” is so goofily implausible and patently ridiculous that anyone who takes its execution at face value might consider taking up residence in North Korea and worshiping their Supreme Leader’s bizarre cult of personality.

Rogen and Goldberg do not hold back on highlighting some bullet points from the country’s despicable human rights record, yet they also take steps to humanize that target.  Brought to life by Randall Park (Chung from “Veep”), Kim Jong Un actually receives more agency and personality than Lizzy Caplan’s CIA agent in charge of the mission to kill him.  He has daddy issues, struggles with his sexuality, and desperately seeks approval from people he admires – such as Skylark.  Then again, he also starves his own people and plays fast and loose with nuclear weapons…


Really, “The Interview” is just as much about the urge not to kill Kim Jong Un as it is about taking him out.  At first, Skylark and his producer Aaron Rapaport (Rogen) fail to assassinate him out of their own classically bumbling incompetence.  But over time, Skylark begins to harbor some doubts after getting to know Kim Jong Un over margaritas and rides in Soviet tanks while listening to Katy Perry.

This is not even the most complicated deliberation of justifiable murder released at Christmas 2014 (see “Into the Woods” for that).  It is, however, distinctly more mature than an expected satisfaction of bloodlust by a dehumanizing vilification and subsequent ruthless extermination.  Rogen and Goldberg provide an amusingly victorious outing for American democracy, yet that triumph is not achieved without issuing a few caveats and exposing some of our own limitations.

At the end of the day, “The Interview” is not a movie meant for North Koreans, though they certainly deserve the ability to see anything that exposes their leader’s reign of terror to the forces of reason and logic.  This is not a film designed to ignite a revolution with a camera, and it likely would not be capable of doing so if it tried.  It is a movie for Americans and anyone else who enjoys the benefits of freedom.  Jokes and gags target the ignorance of the United States just as much as they blast the obliviousness of North Korea; only the former possesses the ability to take these jabs to heart and implement real change.

Rogen and Goldberg clearly share the same ambitions for “The Interview” that Skylark and Rapaport have for their own interview within the movie.  They want to prove that entertainment and politics are not mutually exclusive concepts nor must they be reduced to “infotainment.”  Similarly, they hope to show that the American public can handle serious discourse from usually frivolous figures.  This meta commentary of the film offers far more stimulation than its actual message, oddly enough.

Still, “The Interview” provides a decent enough amount of laughter to accompany its low-grade political musings.  The jokes lack the inspiration of Rogen and Goldberg’s last outing, “This is the End,” but they mostly work nonetheless.  The world will soon forget the content of the inane humor contained within the film, although they will always remember how much more enjoyable their buffoonery became when cyberterrorist tried to censor their expression.  Artists should always have the right to make the kind of movie they want, just as audiences should always be able to evaluate how well their expressed aims are met.  Here, they are achieved with intermittent – though usually satisfying – success.  B2halfstars



One response

27 12 2014

It’s not a perfect movie, but it didn’t need to be. Just funny enough. Good review Marshall.

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