It was never going to be a good movie, but it’s fair to be hypocritical in light of the controversy and say it’s curiously amusing now. The Interview has some moments of inspiration that take it above the limp political comedies of Will Ferrell, but still, it never crushes it. This is mostly soft satire, crude but not brilliant, and the first scene of the movie of a North Korean girl singing an anthem that relishes disgust for Americans is the gutsiest (and most hilarious) of the entire film – it is merciless enough to have likely ticked off the North Korean regime. Yes, Kim Jong-un is the North Korean dictator being lampooned here, and a very sophomoric lampoon it is. Yes, it’s kinda funny that he likes shooting hoops, that he revels in debauchery with lingerie models, that he’s willing to discuss his oedipal complex, that he likes showing off his toy military tank, that he is simpering in his hospitality to his American guests. But like Sacha Baron Cohen’s vulgar but flaccid farce “The Dictator,” this satire too has shallow bite and little potency.
James Franco is not very good as the trashy talk show host who is escorted to North Korea to interview the great dictator. He is spastic in loud suits with frat boy intelligence, and over-inflated ego – that character of the self-entitled television personality has been done and done. Robert Downey Jr. might have been a brilliant choice to let it rip, with his intelligence and cockiness and debonair flair, and could have elevated “The Interview” to stronger satire. Franco, as Dave Skylark, is briefed by the American CIA to go to North Korea and fatally drug their dictator. There’s some throwaway inappropriate flirtation with the sexy CIA agent (Lizzy Caplan) before the mission, but so what?
Of more critical importance, Randall Park is not good enough either as Kim Jong-un with his petulant man-child approach. It’s a nearly impossible part to take on, but a great actor with heft should have given it a try (Choi Min-Sik, the Robert DeNiro of South Korea actors, if he were younger would have been my choice, but he’s too old now).
Let’s also talk about Seth Rogen as Aaron Rapaport, Skylark’s producer and longtime friend by happenstance. Rogen is the sarcastic guy that ends up being the sound reason of the room. Rogen is Rogen and is funny with what he does, but it’s no stretch. He does have a funny interlude with a sexy-dangerous North Korean official (Diana Bang), one of the movie’s better highlights. The lethal poison literally ends up in Rogen’s hands, and in his love scene, he has to make love but avoid using his hand at the same time. I also had a hoot when Franco, who has gone chummy with the dictator, feels betrayed by Kim Jong-un when he learns the grapefruit at the local market is fake.
As the years pass from when I’ve seen this, I think the above mentioned scenes are going to be the only scenes I remember fondly or remember at all. Well, I’ll remember the loud and would-be outrageous action finale with the she-bang of gunfire and explosions that are obligatory with it, but not so fondly.
“The Interview” is by directors Evan Goldberg and Rogen who made the poke-fun-at-celebrity-egos satire “This is the End” before it. Now that film was wild.
112 Minutes. Rated R.
BROAD POLITICAL COMEDY / CRUDE HUMOR / SATURDAY NIGHT LAZY COUCH