Directed by Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg
Written by Dan Sterling, Story by Seth Rogan, Evan Goldberg, and Dan Sterling
Starring James Franco, Seth Rogan, Lizzy Caplan, Randall Park, Diana Bang, Timothy Simons
Remember December, 2015? When North Korea threatened global thermonuclear war over a comedy film? When cinemas were pulling it from bookings nationwide, and frat boys declared their uber-patriotism by downloading a movie? Remember when that was the craziest the news got? Those were the days.
Dave Skylark (James Franco) and his producer Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen) run the popular celebrity tabloid TV show “Skylark Tonight.” When they discover that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un (Randall Park) is a fan of the show, they land an interview with him in an attempt to legitimize themselves as journalists. As Dave and Aaron prepare to travel to Pyongyang, their plans change when the CIA recruits them, perhaps the two least-qualified men imaginable, to assassinate Kim Jong-un.
The Interview, originally conceived as both a satirical attack on shallow late night television and probably the most monstrous dictatorial regime currently on the face of the Earth, was obviously meant to be no more than a spiritual successor to the efforts of Trey Parker and the South Park creators, whilst staying firmly rooted in the metatextual comedy of Seth Rogan’s work. What it ended up becoming was an even bigger and more controversial piece than Rogan or Franco or co-director Evan Goldberg ever imagined. All because of the very man they were “killing” in their film. The resulting firestorm is worthy of a film story in of itself, interesting and funny in ways I still can’t believe, and that’s even after the bag of poo-fire we as a nation have suddenly found ourselves in by electing our own whiney man-child.
But this isn’t an editorial of the effects of The Interview, this is a review, and while I can’t gloss over the impact it has already had, I can place it on the back-burner and return to why I’m typing this out in the first place.
Rogan and Goldberg, along with screenwriter Dan Sterling, pull no punches from the very beginning with an incredibly anti-American song sung by a beautiful young voice on the eve of yet another nuclear missile test in North Korea. It’s a scene that seems wildly over-the-top and unrealistic, but given the hermit-like nature of North Korea and the oppression of the Kim family that makes Orwell’s corpse wish he’d thought of it, the whole sequence could very much be true. It’s a strange world we live in, is what I’m trying to say.
After a barrage of serious news coverage documenting the strike, we slam-cut the opposite end of the media spectrum: Dave Skylark, a narcissistic party boy who somehow found himself on television, then proceeded to rape the very concepts of integrity and importance by doing nothing more than interviewing celebrities about their, frankly, worthless quirks. The only thing worse about Skylark than his null contributions to humanity at large is that he truly thinks he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread, pulling down his producer Aaron Rappaport, an excellent journalist whose potential is being wasted on Rob Lowe’s bald head. Right away, The Interview establishes itself as a very in-your-face brand of comedy, and while Franco’s endless monologues that elevate himself to godhood in his eyes come close to annoying the audience as much as the characters surrounding him, Rogan is there as his trademark straight man, showing us just how insane our priorities as a society are.
When Dave becomes determined to book an interview with the infamous Kim Jong-un after hearing how much of a fan he is of the show, Aaron is forced to the dirty work, and before they know it, they have their scoop locked and scheduled. Then Lizzy Caplan shows up, representing the CIA with a push-up bra, fake glasses, and a smile, aiming to “honeypot” the two into assassinating Kim with a poison strip during the interview. It’s classic American shadiness filtered through Rogan’s raunchy style, and they accept, with Aaron thinking about the contribution to human history they are undertaking, while Dave can only ponder what gun he will use and what title his tell-all book will have.
From here, the film gets even more meta, possibly explaining what exactly happened to Dennis Rodman during his visit; Dave and Aaron are shown facade after facade of lies pertaining to Korea’s welfare, and Dave is further seduced by the familiarity of Kim, played hilariously as an immature idiot with daddy issues that he buries with margaritas and women by Randall Park, an actor with already limited masculine charisma who nonetheless comes across as way more manly than the actual Kim. Through all of this, we still get the steady diet of Rogan and Goldberg raunch and poo jokes, which ends up tying together nicely with the satire in a climax that is incredibly fantastic, bloody, and over-the-top (more so than even the opening), but not entirely unexpected, given the nature of the film.
So how did a film like this become way more than what it should have been, which is good, but not news-worthy? Because the world is a hellfire of insanity, ladies and gentlemen, which was proven in sweeping form by theaters pulling the film from their bookings before its release date, fearful of provoking a war with Korea. Somebody should have told them that North Korea threatens war every weekend as a hobby, but the message was eventually received, sparking off as opposite a response to the pullings as Skylark’s hollow charm is to the grave situation of North Korea’s citizens. Art-house cinemas and smaller theaters began pledging to show the film, streaming and download services began offering it, and couch patriots the nation over declared it our duty as citizens to watch and disseminate a run-of-the-mill comedy film. I told you, the world is weird.
In the end, we did get an entertaining and funny film, one that plays around with genre, society, and politics in enough measure to counterbalance the juvenile nature of its core comedic content. I don’t know if it was worth an international incident, but I’d be more than willing to go back to that “simpler” time.