The Interview (2014)
The Interview (2014)

Genre: Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 52 min.

Release Date: December 24th, 2014 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen Actors: James Franco, Seth Rogen, Lizzy Caplan, Randall Park, Diana Bang, Reese Alexander, Timothy Simons

 


 

R

eliable media reports cover North Korea’s latest trials of a new rocket that could potentially reach the United States, commenting on the volatility of the country’s young, untested leader with a dangerously strong nuclear ambition. Meanwhile, Dave Skylark (James Franco), the host of talk show “Skylark Tonight,” conducts a groundbreaking interview with Eminem, uncovering some astonishing information during an episode of the highly rated show – actually, the 1000th episode spanning a ten-year career. Producer Aaron Rapaport (Seth Rogen) is overjoyed at the public revelation, but inwardly yearns for more weighty material.

Although the latest rumors of Matthew McConaughey having sex with a goat trump important political matters, Aaron is thrilled to learn that North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong-un (Randall Park), an avid consumer of American entertainment, is a fan of the program. Aaron is contacted by the Secretary of Communications for the DPRK, who sets up a meeting in China to discuss (very briefly) the opportunity for Skylark to conduct an interview with Jong-un at his personal compound in Pyongyang. Unfortunately, Dave is not only drastically unqualified for such a significant meeting, but he’s also only allowed to ask preapproved questions. Due to the unprecedented assembly, CIA agents Lacey (Lizzy Caplan) and Botwin (Reese Alexander) approach Dave and Aaron (codenamed Dung Beetle and Aardvark, respectively) to participate in an assassination scheme, involving a time-delayed ricin strip for a fatal handshake that will kill Jong-Un within twelve hours – thereby allowing for total U.S. deniability.

With this kind of setup, it’s immediately evident that the hopelessly inept duo will be incapable of carrying out such a plot. But their mission is ultimately just a ruse for cracking jokes, many of which aren’t even based on North Korea. Honeypotting (something of a motif throughout the film), James Bond gadgetry, unsavory miming, an unnatural amount of “Lord of the Rings” references, and all sorts of raunchy bathroom humor pepper the scatterbrained adventures in the most secretive nation on the planet. “You really think I could get caught or killed?” Aaron naively inquires. The remainder of their shenanigans and the direness of their situation are never treated with any sincerity, while editing shortcomings and storyline inattentiveness betray a production plagued by studio interference.

Although a few gags concerning common misconceptions and frivolous propaganda about North Korea (such as an abundance of Siberian tigers and Jong-Un’s love of Katy Perry and margaritas) impart moderate amusement, it’s the random asides that possess the most resonance (such as a montage of joyriding in Stalin’s tank, over-the-top cameos, and bits of graphic violence masquerading as slapstick). Most components of this political farce contain little potency, especially in regards to the offensiveness of a fake biography. The depiction of North Korea is not entirely repugnant, with considerable effort going into humanizing the popularly detestable dictator – as if his political image is purely a result of manipulative media. And a dalliance with Jong-un broadcast propagandist Sook (Diana Bang) offers a decidedly sympathetic viewpoint. But no matter how innocent or affronting or outrageous or hysterical the events in “The Interview” may be (and none of those qualities exist in significant portions), nothing about it will be as memorable as the negative publicity surrounding the cancelling of its wide theatrical opening and the cyber attack against Sony Pictures.

– Mike Massie

  • 4/10