Much press has surrounded the controversial film The Interview, which Sony first canceled, and then later made available, to independent theaters and video-on-demand services. (Many major theater chains have opted not to carry it, though presumably they could if they wanted to.) Now that the movie has come out, I couldn’t help but check it out, considering the attention, and see if it is worth the trouble surrounding it. The short answer is, sort of.
The plot of The Interview is goofy, bordering on surrealistic. Television producer Aaron Rapaport (Seth Rogen, Super Bad, The Comeback) wants to get into more serious news, but the star he works with, Dave Skylark (James Franco, 127 Hours, The Mindy Project), is all about sensationalist entertainment. These two worlds merge when the guys find out Kim Jong-un (Randall Park, Veep, Larry Crowne) is a super-fan of Skylark and invites them to visit, which is complicated when the U.S. government asks Skylark to assassinate the dictator, and gives him minimal training to do so.
One can easily see why North Korea is upset by this movie. It takes their Supreme Leader, whom they worship as a god, and make him a metrosexual, emotional, cartoon character. In fact, much is made in the movie of exposing the true Kim to the people of that country, something that would go against the administration’s policies. With a dramatic climax that I won’t spoil, which goes a step further in defacing Kim, it makes sense that his home country wouldn’t want people to see The Interview.
That being said, terrorism is inexcusable, and threatening nuclear warfare isn’t right. The United States would never do that to anyone who made a similar movie about our elected leader. In fact, a British film about George W. Bush’s fictional murder, Death of a President was released in 2007, though that one was not a comedy. In that spirit, I urge many people to see The Interview, if for no other reason than to thumb our noses at a petty regime that would seek to infringe upon freedom of speech and resort to scare tactics to censor art.
The Interview is pretty funny, though not spectacularly so. Rogen’s character isn’t very humorous, presumably on purpose, which drags down the feature more than if every part of the script were to be played for laughs. But Franco is hilarious, especially when sharing the screen with Park, whom will soon be starring in an ABC sitcom called Fresh Off the Boat, and is absolutely terrific here. The supporting cast includes many notable faces, including Lizzy Caplan (Masters of Sex), Ben Schwartz (House of Lies), Timothy Simons (Veep), Diana Bang (Bates Motel), Rob Lowe (Parks and Recreation), rapper Eminem, and many semi-self-playing cameos. The movie makes terrific use for Katy Perry’s “Firework,” and there are a number of laugh-out-loud moments.
Where the piece suffers is in it’s satirical quality. It flirts with full-on lampooning in the style of Team America: World Police, which skewered Kim’s father, but backs off by trying to make itself a more mainstream film. It raises several important issues, such as the state of current media, but it barely scratches the surface.
I can’t help but wonder how much better The Interview would be had it fully committed to its premise, instead of couching a relatively pedestrian, predictable buddy story that happens to be set in an outrageous environment. Franco and Rogen’s This Is the End is superior because every bit of it revolves around the unique tale being told. The Interview pulls itself back, making it relatively tame and safe by comparison.
Is The Interview worth watching? Sure. I probably would have viewed it when it came to HBO or another premium channel, rather than going to see it in theaters, but I still would have eventually watched it. Is it worth owning? Probably, but only because of the stir it created in our culture, not being quite good enough on its own merit to shell out my hard-earned money for. But right now, when you can pay a few bucks to watch it on YouTube, I recommend everyone check it out, even if the stars aren’t quite your brand of humor, which is admittedly not critically-acclaimed.
The Interview is currently in select theaters, as well as being available on YouTube, GooglePlay, iTunes, and other online outlets.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00AEFZ8OY][amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00BEJL69U][amazon template=iframe image&asin=B000MV8AAY]