Movie Review: “The Interview” — Welcome to North Korea!

Written by Josh Litman December 22, 2014

As most of you have probably heard or read by now, North Korea has actually succeeded in censoring the release of Seth Rogen and James Franco’s “The Interview” by hacking Sony Pictures and threatening to blow up movie theatres that show the film, apparently under the guise of a group called The Guardians of Peace. Setting aside the frankly dangerous precedent set by allowing a foreign country to censor us, isn’t it absolutely insane that America has been subjected to terrorism by North Korea just because they don’t like the depiction of their leader in a comedy movie? Seriously, of all things? But, I guess that’s Kim Jong-un for you.

Anyhow, I was one of the few actually lucky enough to attend a screening of “The Interview” at the film’s world premiere. So naturally, I feel inclined to throw that fact in your faces with this review.

Directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, with a screenplay by Dan Sterling, “The Interview” is an action-comedy-spy-satire revolving around Dave Skylark (James Franco), the star of a celebrity tabloid news show called Skylark Tonight, and his producer Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen), who get the unlikely chance to take on more meaningful subject matter when they discover the despotic leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, is a fan of their show. Who woulda thunk? However, the CIA almost immediately hijacks their plans — what is supposed to be a straightforward televised interview — by insisting that Skylark and Rapoport use this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to assassinate Kim. As you might expect, hijinks ensue.

“You want us to kill the leader of North Korea??”

There’s a great bit at the beginning involving Eminem that I won’t spoil in hopes the film actually does get a release. From there, the humor is frequently hit-or-miss, depending on your tastes. In any case, the film itself is almost always engaging — and, dare I say it, well-paced. Franco’s boundless energy drives the movie forward, but his juvenile performance can be a double-edged sword with his over-the-top idiocy sometimes making it difficult to suspend disbelief. Rogen, on the other hand, is in fine form throughout. He plays the “straight man” to Franco’s “funny man,” but that doesn’t mean he’s a slouch in the comedy department. He just takes on the added role of consistently pointing out the genuine absurdity of Kim Jong-un’s rule. For some members of the audience, such details might in fact be educational.

Seth Rogen;James Franco;Lizzy Caplan

And here is where the film actually manages to shine a light on some of the horrors going on in NK. That it uses humor to get our attention isn’t a negative in my mind. Humor is a classic method of tackling difficult subject matter, and it draws the attention of the masses. The film may be majority “dumb comedy,” but the political satire that is there is surely better than nothing. And for that, the film deserves props.

“Gentlemen, you are entering into the most dangerous country on earth.”

Furthermore, the film has the intention of raising awareness via a plot that centers around Dave Skylark not believing that his buddy Kim is all that bad. I mean, come on, he’s just a misunderstood and misrepresented world leader trying to do his best after taking over from his dictatorial father…right? Skylark accepts the veil placed over his eyes because he wants to. He’s in denial of the truth (comically, of course). Undoubtedly, as the film progresses, Skylark finally comes to see the basic human rights and necessities this “Supreme Leader” is denying his people.

randall park

Speaking of the Supreme Leader, Randall Park absolutely nails it as Kim Jong-un. Seriously, the guy is brilliant. He actually gives a pretty layered performance, playing timid, bashful, exuberant, manipulative, sycophantic, daddy issues-having, ruthless and, finally, downright evil with aplomb. As such, the character is much less one-note than he could have been.

“It was a gift to my grandfather from Stalin.”
“In my country, it’s pronounced Stallone.”

There’s also a mild satire of entertainment and celebrity news. As producer of Skylark Tonight, Rogen’s Rapoport feels a hollowness inside because, while technically successful, he and Skylark are never taken seriously as journalists or commentators as they concern themselves with “news” like who’s gay in Hollywood, who’s secretly bald, who flaunted some camel-toe, etc. Rapoport wants to prove they can do real news. When he and Skylark finally do get to interview Kim, there are definitely some sobering tidbits in there for the audience to think about. In fact, this is where Franco’s character finally gets to act a little more serious — a point in the film by which such maturity is more than welcome.

the-interview-2014-hd-2014-wallpapers-1

But let’s be real here: most of you don’t want to see this movie for the mild political satire and/or potential to raise awareness of the massive violations and systematic abuses of human rights in North Korea — at least, not primarily. You want to laugh your ass off. And if potty humor, sex humor, sexism, pop-culture references, and sheer dumb comedy are your thing, then this movie is for you. I admit it did it for me…minus much of the potty humor. Oh and the film actually gets surprisingly violent. Like, for real, unexpectedly ultra-violent. I loved it, but just a warning if bloody mayhem doesn’t float your boat.

“Why won’t you feed your people?”

Well-paced, engaging, and frequently laugh-out-loud funny, “The Interview” is a shamelessly bold action-comedy with mild satirical elements (but mostly filled with dick jokes) that is absolutely worth checking out…if you ever get the chance, that is. But while North Korea’s at it, maybe they could censor that spate of terrible Nicholas Cage movies for us…and Michael Bay a little bit, too. And the Kardashians.

Rating: 8/10

THE INTERVIEW Teaser Poster

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About Josh Litman

Josh Litman

Director/producer/writer/actor/editor/cinematographer/musician/neuroscientist… Josh prides himself on being simultaneously awesome and modest. In addition to We Eat Films, Josh also produces his own work (films, writing) under the banner of Action Potential Productions and has his own website, too, where his handiwork can be viewed: www.actionpp.com -- or www.joshlitman.com (if you prefer).

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