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The Interview (A Movie Review)

Updated: Apr 19, 2020

The Interview

The Interview


Starring Seth Rogen, James Franco, Lizzy Caplan, Randall Park, Diana Bang, Timothy Simons, Reese Alexander, James Yi, Paul Bae, Geoff Gustafson, Dominique Lalonde, Anesha Bailey, Anders Holm, Ben Schwartz, Brian Williams, Guy Fieri, Bill Maher, Rob Lowe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Eminem.

Screenplay by Dan Sterling.

Directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.

Distributed by Sony Pictures.  111 minutes.  Rated R.

Undoubtedly the funniest thing about The Interview is that stoner stars Seth Rogen and James Franco – of all people – have been responsible for creating a major international political and diplomatic incident.   The guys behind Pineapple Express and This is the End were the catalyst for one of the most serious and egregious acts of cyber terrorism in history?  Wow.

Sony Pictures, one of the biggest companies in the world, was left quaking in their boots as their dirty laundry was released to the world.  Then, after vague threats of violence and retribution, most of the major cinema chains in the United States refused to show The Interview.  Sony bit the bullet and cancelled what it hoped might be one of it’s major Christmas tent pole movies – which was a particularly bitter pill to swallow because their other major title for the season was the horrible remake of Annie.

It hit such surreal heights that the President of the United States discussed them in a press briefing at the White House.   (And to show how totally B-list these guys really are, Obama did a slip of the tongue calling the actor by the similar name of Baltimore Ravens quarterback James Flacco.)

Sony was planning on just writing the whole thing off, but the negative publicity that they were giving in to terrorists, so they have agreed to give the film a limited release in independent theaters and through Video on Demand.

It is all even funnier now that the film has finally released and it turns out that the film is the type of unfanged, unfocused, goofy, broad satire that one would tend to expect from Seth Rogen and James Franco.  The movie is more a verdict on cheesy infotainment journalism with more than its share of blow job jokes than any kind of political farce. Hell, Kim Jong-un even turned out to be portrayed as a pretty nice guy in much of the film.

Kim Jong-un could have saved everyone a lot of agita and just allowed the movie to sink from the weight of its own inevitable bad word-of-mouth.  The hacking scandal got this film priceless publicity, and it worked up the movie-going public.  People seemed to react as of one mind: No one is going to tell us we can’t watch some stupid movie.  We’ll decide what dumb films we’re going to see, thank you very much.

I’m one of many people who would have never have gone out of my way to see this film if not for the controversy.  If anything, the coming attractions trailer looked pretty awful to me.  I will even go so far as to say that it is a beyond-stupid premise and that Kim Jong-un does have the right to be miffed that some dumb comedy is using the idea of his potential assassination as entertainment.

About a decade ago when some tiny British film studio put out the exploitation film Death of a President in which they staged a imagined murder of George W. Bush, I went on the record in my review that no real living man’s death, no matter what he may have done, should be used for entertainment.  And I disliked George W. Bush more than I do even Kim Jong-un, if only because Bush negatively affected my everyday life and Kim Jong-un, as much of a strict dictator he may be, does not really cross over into my world.

Therefore I will stick with that belief.  It was a cheap, cynical ploy for Rogan and co-writer Evan Goldberg to use the real Kim Jong-un as a character in their film when they could have easily made a fictional character based on the real thing.  They were hoping for the real name to get the film a bit extra of controversy and notoriety.  Be careful what you wish for.

But, okay, the movie is here now – at least sort of.  We can see it – though with considerably more difficulty than originally planned – so let’s try to put the controversy on the back burner for a moment.  It’s difficult, but let’s try to look at The Interview as a film, not as a huge news story.  Is it any good?

Eh.  It has some good moments, but honestly, not really.

Franco plays Dave Skylark, a cheesy TV host whose idea of a huge expose is an episode on Miley Cyrus’ camel toe or getting Eminem to casually out himself on camera.  Rogen is Aaron Rapaport, his producer and best friend, who keeps him real on camera.  When it turns out that the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is a big fan of Skylark’s show, the guys decide to ask Kim for an interview and shocked when he agrees.  (Though to give you an idea of their journalistic integrity, they allow his people to decide on the questions he will be asked.)

When word gets out that they are going to Korea, the guys are approached by a gorgeous CIA agent (played by a wasted Lizzy Caplan of Masters of Sex, in a role that asks little of her beyond acting with her cleavage) who tries to charm them into killing the dictator while they are there.

The idea that the CIA would be recruiting two civilians, and rather inept ones at that, for such a sensitive mission is shockingly not the most unlikely thing about the film.  But the guys fly off to North Korea and are shocked to find out that Kim Jong-un seems to be a pretty nice, misunderstood guy, the type of guy who likes to party and drive his personal tank and listen to Katy Perry.

Dave starts having second thoughts about the whole thing.  Could the whole world have been wrong about the guy?

Of course not, and eventually the dictator starts to show his true colors.  Otherwise there would be no movie.

Franco is scarily good at playing a shallow sort (take that as you will).  It is kind of weird when the best acting in the film is done by the bad guy (Randall Park gives Kim Jong-un a sweet charm and a fanatical furor).

And did I mention there were way too many blow job and fart jokes?

So The Interview isn’t very good.  It’s no big surprise.  It almost doesn’t even matter anymore.  I watched it, for better or worse, in a misplaced fit of patriotism and many others will too.  If I were more cynical, I might believe that the whole thing was just some weird James Franco stunt to get more attention.  After all, The Interview would have probably been a minor hit left to its own devices, but now everyone in the world is talking about it.

The Interview is no longer just a film, it is a symbol of standing up to oppression.  And while, yeah, I wish it were a more enjoyable symbol to sit through for nearly two hours, I’m not sorry that I spent my time and money to watch it.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2014 All rights reserved. Posted: December 26, 2014.

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