Relax, North Korea. You Have Nothing to Worry About
My second choice for a tag line? “And the Wheels of the Hype Machine Go ‘Round and ‘Round.”
And man, did it need it. Five months ago, The Interview was set to be a minor October release. A blip on the edge of Oscar prestige season. But then North Korea threatened “merciless” action, Sony delayed the release until Christmas and after a terrorist threat from the “Guardians of Peace”, the studio pulled the film altogether.
The media got their panties in a bunch, free speech advocates lost their mind and as of last week, The Interview has earned $31 million via online distribution. The Seth Rogen / James Franco movie that nobody saw coming became a hit.
Despite my cynicism over the threats, the leaks and the eventual online release (it all seems pretty choreographed to me), I can see why a North Korean dictator would be miffed. Imagine if Kim Jong-un was swapped with President Obama. People in US would be equally outraged.
The good news is, nobody has anything to worry about. The Interview is nothing but a competently made bro-mance wrapped in a controversial political blanket. No threats to the status quo, no potential revolution. Sophomoric yet funnier than not, The Interview is a fun time at the theaters and nothing more than that.
James Franco plays Dave Skylark, host of the celebrity gossip talk show Skylark Tonight. Stuck in the world of entertainment journalism, Dave and longtime producer Aaron (Seth Rogen) finally get a big break: Kim Jong-un is a fan and wants to be on the show. But when the CIA learns about the big interview, they contract the pair to assassinate the controversial dictator.
The ludicrous setup is completely sold by the work of Franco and Rogen. If you’ve seen This Is the End, you know exactly what to expect. Two guys messing around in front of the cameras. The effect is oddly infectious. It’s clear the two had a blast making this movie which allows us to share in the good times. Despite some eye rolling catch phrases and profanity for the hell of it, The Interview works because of the story’s pure energy.
While the humor itself is juvenile, the jokes work more often than not. For every painfully unfunny scene such as Rogen sneaking around the dark, there’s one that really works. The film really takes off when Franco becomes pals with the North Korean dictator. From shooting hoops to driving tanks, their relationship quickly drowns out the one that’s supposed to matter. I’ll never hear Katy Perry’s “Fireworks” the same way again.
A healthy helping of celebrity guest appearances, including Eminem, Brian Williams and a fantastic Rob Lowe, pepper the movie with fun moments. The surrounding cast runs from meh (Lizzy Caplan as a boring CIA agent) to fantastically funny (Randall Park as Kim Jong-un) and the underlying story, while ridiculous, works just enough to keep the comedy afloat.
In the end, my analysis is a simple one. The Interview made me laugh more than it made me groan. I’d put it at a 70/30 split. Through all the haze and hype, it’s always enjoyable to watch people have fun making movies. Brash, loud and sometimes stupid, The Interview still succeeds where most modern comedies fail. Good times with actors that would probably be a blast to hang out with. Just don’t expect the controversial firestorm Sony made it out to be. Viral marketing indeed.
Score – 7 out of 10