Your initial reaction to The Interview will simply be one of bafflement. Sony became victim to one of the worst hacks of all time, theatres were threatened with 9/11 style terrorist attacks, and a disturbing new censorship precedent was set over a comedy that is primarily two hours of dick and fart jokes? As more people watch The Interview now that Sony has finally decided to make it available to the public, this climactic event to the film year that was 2014 will seem more like a mere overreaction than anything else.
Regardless of your reaction to the movie, The Interview will go down as one of the most talked about films of this year. Not because it’s good, but because it has caused so much controversy that it has become something of a symbol of freedom. We live in a free, democratic society, one where everyone is entitled to say what they want (as long as they aren’t physically hurting anyone in the process). President Obama said it best that if a dictator from another country can influence us to censor ourselves, that’s a problem. When Sony pulled the film from release and a young Torontonian took up arms over Facebook to get the film screened publicly, over 4500 people agreed to attend within a span of a few days. These 4500 people may not have been necessarily interested in seeing the movie, but they definitely were ready to show their support that a filmmaker’s vision and message should not be silenced.
So now let’s judge The Interview as a movie. Did I laugh? Yes I did. And while the movie is two hours of dick and fart jokes, there is still a satirical edge that I instantly connected with. As a director, Seth Rogen makes movies that are rude and crude, but where Judd Apatow mixes this low brow humour with honest and sentimental aspects of real life, Seth Rogen pays homage to the films he enjoys watching, not unlike his peer Quentin Tarantino. This was most obvious in his debut film, This is the End, a send up of horror movies and celebrity culture. With The Interview, his second film, Seth and co-director Evan Goldberg embrace the Rambo-style action thriller where a hero is dropped in behind enemy lines with orders to assassinate a ruthless dictator.
Rogen and his co-star James Franco share the same great chemistry they did in Pineapple Express. They could be a modern day Abbott and Costello if Abbott and Costello smoked weed and talked excessively about bowel movements. Franco plays Dave Skylark, quite possibly the dumbest human being alive, but a very successful tabloid show host. He finds out that North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Un (Randall Park) is a huge fan of his show and has requested that Skylark and his partner, Aaron Rapaport (Rogen), fly to North Korea for an interview that is to be completely scripted by Un himself. The pair agree, but not before they are recruited by the CIA and voluntold to assassinate the North Korean leader.
While I’m sure no one in North Korea had seen The Interview before condemning it – much the same way the Catholic Church banned The Last Temptation of Christ without seeing it – I can say that the movie does mock Kim Jong Un quite a bit. Rogen and Goldberg aren’t quite as good at satire as South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone were with Team America: World Police, but The Interview pretty much depicts Kim Jong Un as a lover of American culture, an overly emotional man with Daddy issues, and a repressed homosexual. Given that North Korea teaches children from a young age to hate the United States, this depiction is definitely a slap in the real Kim Jong Un’s face. The film aims to expose the North Korean government as a propaganda machine that abandons most of its citizens to starve, suppresses human rights and kills anyone who speaks out against the government. Most politically astute viewers won’t find any new revelations here although it’s nice to see an American studio film depict real life atrocities without restraint. The satire is accomplished through humanizing Kim Jong Un. By showing the man singing Katy Perry songs along with James Franco, The Interview turns the mirror onto the North Korean government, letting the film’s audience know in a humour filled way that there is more beneath the surface.
As I said, anyone who’s ever read an article about the North Korean government’s treatment of its people will not learn anything by watching this film. They’ll walk away ready to use some new sex terms in everyday life, but that’s about it. In that respect, there are many who will see this as a missed opportunity. I don’t disagree, but there is still enough of a bite to warrant some of the notoriety it’s been surrounded by over the past few weeks. I laughed quite a bit, and as a comedy, I can say it’s worth at least one watch. James Franco was absolutely hilarious and some of the cameos – my favourite being in the first five minutes of the film – definitely added to my enjoyment. Randall Park plays the dictator in the only over the top fashion that could work for a movie like this. Just make sure that you go into The Interview with the expectations you’d have for Pineapple Express 2, and not a Bill Maher documentary.
DIRECTORS: Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg / WRITER: Dan Sterling / STARRING: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Randall Park, Lizzy Caplan / YEAR: 2014 / GENRE: Comedy / COUNTRY: USA / RUNNING TIME: 112 minutes