112 Minutes, Rated R
Fair Value of The Interview: $4.50. The North Korean army huffed and puffed, but all the hype couldn’t make a better movie than this. Not Rogen’s worst comedy but not his best either. Passing moments of hilarity but with a lot of flab in between.
Fair Value of the Sony Hacking Fiasco: $20.00. If the events that transpired in December had been given to me as a script, I’d have called it the most tech-savvy comedy that I’d seen in years, almost The Producers for the internet age. It had a bumbling blustering man-child (Kim Jong-un), a harried corporate harridan (Amy Pascal), numerous celebrity cameos. The greatest problem of The Interview is that all the funniest comedy transpired before the curtains were lowered.
The Flop that Launched a Thousand Hacks:
Dave Skylark (James Franco) is the vain anchorbro of talk show, one who eases into the scoop of getting Eminem to come out as gay on his TV show. Despite ruling the ratings, his director Aaron Rapaport (Seth Rogen) is not happy. Rapaport feels inadequate compared to his peers at 60 Minutes. He longs to do genuine, ‘Meet the Press’ interviews. Fortunately for Rapaport, Kim Jong Un (Randall Park) is a big fan of Skylark, sending his media general Sook (Diana Bang) to offer Skylark the most exclusive of exclusives. Of course, Agent Lacy of the CIA (Lizzy Caplan) would like Skylark to perform some extra-judiciary killing while he’s there, because American civilians killing the leader of a nuclear power is in no way ever suspicious and could never lead to any kind of international conflict.
A Movie About Bumbling Assassins, Made by Bumbling Character Assassins.
I take that back. How can you assassinate the character of a man that has no character, a bland figurehead like Kim Jong Un? Well Rogen thinks he can pull off what was achieved by Chaplin and Woody Allen and Matt Stone, only, unlike those guys, Rogen brings anger and thinks that it’s a substitute for irreverence.
After watching The Interview, I fully understand Kim Jong Un’s reaction. If it were within my power, I too would send a team of hackers against anyone who alleged that I was a fan of Katy Perry’s music. With that being said, there’s an art to satire that’s sorely missing throughout The Interview, and that is the art of the unexpected.
Let me throw out some scenes from some better comedies about dictators. In The Great Dictator, the globe scene is a great moment of physical comedy. It works because it’s a light hearted moment of absurdity just after some of the darkest black comedy of the film. But it also works because it’s a non sequitur to the audience’s image of Hitler. We are used to Hitler being angry, mean, bent on world domination- but nobody before Chaplin really thought of showing him as whimsical.
The “I’m So Ronery” musical number in Team America: World Police works for a similar reason. We don’t think of Kim Jong Il as being lonely or sentimental. Again, comedy comes from delivering the unexpected and the incongruous.
So what does The Interview have to say about Kim Jon Un? That’s he’s an insecure Stalinist Fauntleroy who occasionally shits himself. That’s pretty much what we already expected. Seth Rogan is applying his schtick to North Korea, but he doesn’t really have anything new to say.
The Real Sinister Conspiracy: Shall we try to read behind the hype, the speeches, the brave editorials? Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: a media company exaggerates events and seizes upon a happenstance in order to provoke a major international crisis. That’s never happened before in the history of the USA, right?
Let’s look at what else is happening in the world at the moment: Shinzo Abe has been talking about scrapping Article 8 of the Japanese Constitution. That’s the little piece about how the Japanese military is for self-defense only, and cannot participate in any international war except for defending Japan. The Sony corporation is struggling financially at the moment- it’s gone from being the tech brand leader to an arthritic manufacturer. Now who could possibly give Sony of Japan a shot in the arm? Why the LDP party of course….
And what might the LDP party want? No rapprochement or detente that could lead to the reduction of the US military posture in the Far East. And to do that, the USA needs to be reminded of our favorite bete noire after Islamic terrorists- that old standby, commies! Hence the 2012 Red Dawn. Hence The Interview. And not only do we indulge in the Two Hour Hate, we pay for it. We beg for it, because we’re told that this is freedom. And in that regards, North Korea played right into their hands.
Everything else, the now disputed allegation that it was North Korean hackers? That’s what we call hype. That’s a pure and simple demonstration of the principal that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Hundreds of millions of Americans have now paid money, self included, to listen to James Franco rattling off statistics from Amnesty International. That’s not a joke.
That’s one of the biggest problems of the film- there aren’t enough jokes. There’s a lot of ultraviolence and body humor that’s used to try to pad things out. My overall impression is that Rogen and Evan Goldberg wrote a brilliant treatment and some really good scenes to demonstrate the concept, and then… stopped. There’s a bait and switch going on in this film- come for some Seth Rogen comedy, and then sit uncomfortably as Seth and James tell you about why North Korea is so horrible and why we should probably go to war and overthrow the North Korean government (don’t worry Americans, they will thanks us for doing so, just like every other country that we invade).
The Interview is the opposite of effective satire. It takes some perverse skill for any movie to make me feel sympathy for the world’s greatest living mass murderer, yet that’s what happened. The dialogue and the plot are so wooden and clumsy that I’d easily believe it to be a piece of North Korean film-making, if you just reversed the races (Korean journalists traveling to the USA to kill Barack Obama). But you know what? Sony and Kim Jong Un deserve each other. The comedy of life, the real world comedy has shown there to be no straight men, only buffoons.
And as happens so often, the comedy of life continues to be smarter, funnier, and more profane than what the paid yuksmen of Burbank can devise. Possibly worth renting, not worth box office prices.