THE INTERVIEW: 2 STARS. “needs more satire and less hiding-things-in-Rogen’s-bum.”
This year a Christmas cinema miracle happened. “The Interview,” a Seth Rogen comedy materialized on screens big and small, despite hacker’s attempts to silence the movie. Chants of “Freedom” rang out across the land as the faithful lined up for their chance to see Rogen and James Franco exercise their right of free speech and make bad jokes.
Rogen and Franco play TV host Dave Skylark and producer Aaron Rapaport of the celebrity gossip talk show Skylark Tonight. Skylark is a smarmier version of Barbara Walters, a talk show host who trades in getting personal scoops form his guests. 1000 episodes in Eminem comes out of the closet on the show—”I’ve been playing gay peek-a-boo for years,” he says. “I’ve pretty much been leaving a gay bread crumb trail.”—but despite stratospheric ratings Rapaport doesn’t feel he is being taken seriously as a journalist. “I want to cover actual news,” he says, “not Nicki Minaj’s vagina flopping out at the Grammys.” When he learns North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un (Randall Park) is a fan of the show and wants to be interviewed by Dave, Aaron leaps at the chance to go to Pyongyang.
What begins as a chance at journalistic credibility soon turns into an assignment of a different sport when CIA Agent Lacey (Lizzy Caplan) recruits them to “take him out.” “Like for drinks? For kimchi? Take him out on the town?” Their job is to assassinate Kim with a special poison gadget hidden in their palms. Trouble is, when they touch down in Pyongyang Skylark becomes seduced by Kim’s charm. Convinced he is simply misunderstood and not evil, the dimwitted TV host has second thoughts about completing the mission. “He’s not evil, he was born into a bad situation.”
At a private dinner Dave discovers Kim’s truly dark side and, working with Aaron and propaganda minister Sook (Diana Bang), bring their visit to North Korea to a wild, bloody conclusion.
“The Interview” isn’t nearly as bad as some of the twitterati suggest—“I thought I’d never laugh again,” wrote one tweeter—or as subversive as others would like it to be.
The first twenty minutes has some genuinely funny moments, most fuelled by the Abbott and Costello-style bromantic chemistry between Rogen and the arrogantly idiotic Franco. The set-up earns some giggles at the expense of the media and celebrity journalists—an easy and deserving target—and the audacious nature of the film’s premise. Once the scenery changes from Hollywood to the hermit kingdom, however, the laughs become as rare as Angelina Jolie compliments in leaked Sony e-mails.
Still, there are some funny lines. “That tank was a gift to my father from Stalin,” says Kim. “In my country it’s pronounced Stallone,” replies the oblivious Dave. It’s not Noel Coward, but it’s a nice window into the chat show host’s tiny little world.
The rest of the movie, while intermittently entertaining, isn’t nearly as sharp. In fact it is a blunt instrument that spends 152 minutes (about ¢6 a minute if you rent the download) hammering the audience over the head with poop and rectum jokes. More actual satire and less hiding-things-in-Rogen’s-bum might have made watching the film act of political activism or even an exercise in freedom of speech, but as it is “The Interview” is a buddy comedy and not a declaration of war.