By Ygal Kaufman
Review: The Interview
The Darkside Cinema was brave enough to screen the much talked about, even in this very column, new Seth Rogen/James Franco film, The Interview. Why brave? Was the film an intolerably offensive spectacle? Not really. But hackers did threaten to blow up theaters that showed the movie. Is there a word as nebulous in meaning as hacker? It’s not so much that we don’t know what they are, we just have no idea what they actually do. The threats, which it should be remembered were preposterous on their face, turned out to be a lot of nothing.
What about the actual movie though?
I don’t think anyone will be surprised to learn that it’s not destined for Oscar glory, but it is damn funny. And damn American.
Seth Rogen and James Franco have a screen chemistry that is more alluded to than actually demonstrated on screen. Which is to say, sometimes it’s not that they really act well together so much as they are clearly so bro in real life, so profoundly enthralled in each other’s bro musk, that their rhythm and interplay is all in the zone. They can make suspect writing strong and thin plots substantial.
So is the case with this tale of an airhead celebrity talk show host and his beset upon producer who score an interview with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un only to be conscripted into a CIA backed assassination plot.
The plot itself is silly and thin. The characterizations of the real life monster Kim Jong-un, are insultingly puerile. The violence is shockingly brutal and graphic. And I really enjoyed almost the entire thing.
The North Korean regime is ridiculously, cartoonishly evil, and Trey Parker and Matt Stone long ago proved the best way to discuss them on film; sheer unadulterated mockery. Rogen and his writing partner Evan Goldberg, have crafted, along with veteran comedy writer and producer Dan Sterling, the most perfectly pitched assault on the North Korean brand of autocracy. At times the movie is playfully raunchy, with sexual and gross out humor moments scat-tered all over the place. But with little warning, the picture gracefully bounds (did you think any review of this movie would ever include the words “gracefully bounds?”) to making a clean and salient political point: that killing and removing Kim Jong-un would not result in real change, because the people are brainwashed, and until they see the truth, simply killing Kim would just maintain the status quo and he’d just be replaced by one of his brothers.
I’m not sure how accurate this is, nor how much I’m really interested in taking serious political advice from the guys whose most common gesture is pantomiming ejaculation with their hands. But it’s not overtly boneheaded, not insultingly ignorant, and it’s nuanced. They’re not simply saying, “we need to go in with tanks and make that country free,” or “we need to mind our own business because (ironic impersonation voice) ‘Murica!” Because, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart; ’Murica is one of the laziest, fraudulently anti-intellectual and douchey things a person can type on the internet- please remember that next time you’re on Facebook preparing to sound politically literate. They’re making a concise, deeply un-moronic, and totally debatable point. And they managed to sandwich it in with nearly two hours of dick and fart jokes.
It then comes as no surprise that Sterling also worked on The Daily Show, among others. His toilet humor-&-politics juxtaposition skills should not be in question.
The film does have some moments, notably in the second act, where the plot complexities, such as a comically dangerous poison delivery system for the hit on Kim, get in the way of the pacing. There were even some notable lulls, mostly during the time Rogen and Franco spend apart from each other on screen. But overall it’s a slickly produced comedy, with a few coherent political points and a lot of laughs.
Your move hackers.
Speaking of hackers… and North Korea
I don’t normally like to do a victory lap in the pages of the paper, even when I’m notably right about something, which obviously happens all the time. And it’s certainly debatable that it’s wise to take a victory lap before technically winning. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that it’s looking more and more like everyone was wrong and I was right. The North Koreans almost certainly were not behind the attack, and the rush to believe that they were was less than wise. So I guess what I’m saying is, and I mean this in the classiest way it can be delivered, of course; derp.