World War Three Will Have To Wait

The Interview has been released on Youtube which means unfortunately that two valuable time-wasting Youtube hours will be squandered on this movie by many unsuspecting folks. Of course this is partially the result of all the hoo-hah that this film has already caused. A hacker group had broken into parent company Sony Pictures Entertainment’s computer network and threatened terrorist attacks against cinemas that show The Interview before the film was even released. The likely result of all this free publicity however is that most people are going to be vastly disappointed that such a film caused any concern in the first place.

Its opening premise seems innocuous enough. Dave Skylark is a relatively successful talk show host on his show Skylark Tonight which specializes in celebrity gossip. Played by James Franco, Dave is a showman through and through. His expressions are extreme and everything is overly dramatic, drawing the audience’s attention to his larger-than-life personality in true Brechtian style. This gives him the freedom to be ridiculous for comedic effect such as his unrestrained immaturity that’s surprisingly endearing. Dave is thus the perfect counterpoint to his best friend Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen), the producer of the talk show. Aaron is rational, calm, and serious, trying his best to contain Dave and make good decisions for the both of them.

After being mocked by an old acquaintance, Aaron begins to grow disenchanted with Skylark Tonight’s direction and feels like they should cover some more relevant news. Sure enough, an opportunity arises since it turns out that Kim Jong-Un (Randall Park) is a huge fan of the show and so Dave and Aaron are invited to interview the Supreme Leader of North Korea. The CIA then intervenes and asks them to use the interview as a ploy to assassinate Kim. As expected, Dave is unable to take the mission seriously and instead is more interested in Agent Lacey (Lizzy Caplan) who is in charge of the operation. Billed as one of stars of the movie, Caplan unfortunately plays a minor role and ironically fulfils the pretty-face stereotype her character is supposed to subvert.

The remainder of the movie takes place in Kim’s not-so-humble abode. The feeling of being in North Korea is bolstered mostly by the impressive performances turned in by Park and Diana Bang, who plays Kim’s femme fatale head of propaganda. Their authentic accents and general stiffness create the stifling atmosphere of an oppressive, authoritarian regime. Dave spends time with Kim and realizes that they actually have a lot in common, but it is Park’s awkward expressions and nervous laughter that bring Kim’s insecurities to life.

The fact that Park is able to humanize an atrocious dictator so well unfortunately exposes the confusion of the movie. The audience is forced to sympathize with Kim, but then turns against him when his hypocrisy is exposed. The actual interview of Kim at the climax of the movie then reveals that perhaps he’s not such a hypocrite after all, but instead just misunderstood and misguided, which once again hints at a sympathetic understanding of his character. None of this actually matters at all however as the movie ends in an orgy of crass violence and childlike fantasy-fulfillment. The movie can’t seem to make up its mind on whether it wants to be satirical or not. It’s as if directors Rogen and longtime collaborator Evan Goldberg had some serious thoughts during filming, but then got high and let themselves be stupid for the next few scenes—oh wait, that’s probably exactly how they work.

So it shoots itself in the foot and fails miserably as a satire, but what about its laughs? The Interview may just be a comedy that happens to be set in a hellish North Korea, kind of like how Quentin Tarantino’s films use Nazi Germany (Inglourious Basterds) and the Antebellum South (Django Unchained) as backdrops but aren’t really in dialogue with the context. The best laughs come from celebrity cameos and mocking Kim Jong-Un, the latter of which is far from original. The worst attempts result in sexist, homophobic, and blatantly racist moments that perhaps inadvertently provided the sharpest satire on the state of American media. In other words, you may laugh, but you will probably walk away from the movie feeling bad you even found it funny at all. Actually, come to think of it, is there really anything funny about a totalitarian society that tortures and murders its own citizens? As Adrian Hong of The Atlantic points out, “It is hard to imagine a comparable comedy emerging about quirky Islamic State slavers or amusing and “complicated” genocidaires in the Central African Republic.”

Unfortunately, Rogen has stated that in fact The Interview is supposed to be satirical to the point that “At best, it will cause a country to be free, and at worst, it will cause a nuclear war.” The sheer arrogance—or is it ignorance?—on display is incredible: The Interview does nothing but trivialize its subject matter. It’s a wonder that the real Kim even cared.

Grade: C

A stupid movie with great Asian actors.