Directed by Evan Goldberg & Seth Rogen
Available on VOD and Netflix
The events of the past few weeks have shown that symbols of free expression and speech come in odd shapes and sizes and corners of the globe. A French magazine whose editorial content some could argue was racist and offensive and at the very least was run with the spirit of a thirteen-year-old boy sharing fart jokes with his buddies. And a Hollywood film directed by a couple of Canadian comics and starring some of their friends. Following in the steps forged by earlier offenders, like Giordano Bruno and Larry Flynt, the staff at Charlie Hebdo and the filmmakers behind The Interview have found themselves accidental stand-ins for a global movement, the right to offend and insult and annoy with music, with words, with images. Very few of the people who have been cast in this role have sought it out. Bruno questioned the nature of the universe, Flynt wanted to sell pictures of naked women, the staff at Charlie Hebdo wanted to annoy. And Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen wanted to make a movie poking fun at a dictator and the vapid nature of modern media.
Protecting the right to annoy, to offend, protects the right to disagree, to agree, to provoke, to be neutral, to be passionate, to be apathetic. It protects the right to say and write and sing and paint and film. By protecting the people we disagree with, we protect ourselves and our right to be disagreeable. And in a perfect world, this whole preamble would be unnecessary. The studio would never have been hacked and lives would not have been threatened for going to see a movie. But, that's the world we live in now.
James Franco and Seth Rogen star in The Interview, playing Dave Skylark and Aaron Rapoport, respectively. The two run a celebrity tabloid show, Skylark Tonight. Skylark is the vain, simple and shallow host while Rapoport is the producer who yearns for credibility. The scene that introduces the two and their show, an interview with Eminem who casually drops some personal information, is one of the funniest scenes of the past year. Eminem's deadpan delivery is just short of brilliant.
They land an interview with the supreme leader of North Korea, and number one fan of the show, Kim Jong Un. The CIA, in the form of Lizzy Caplan and Reese Alexander, get involved, drafting Skylark and Rapoport in a mission to assassinate Kim. And from there we are on to North Korea, home of questionable grocery stores and a leader who just wants to be loved. As played by Randall Park, Kim is not a foaming at the mouth psychopath or a unemotional robot. Instead, he is charming and shy and is seemingly desperate for the approval of Dave Skylark. Randall Park, who can be seen on Veep and Fresh Off The Boat, is the highlight of this film. His performance is so multi-faceted, so multi-dimensional, it is the heart of the movie. It is so deep that when the real motive for his bromance with Skylark is exposed, your heart breaks a little for Skylark.
The Interview isn't a brilliant piece of Swiftian satire. As others have pointed out, it isn't as sharp as Dr. Strangelove or South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. What it is, however, is a piece of humour that is a descendant of the Marx brothers' films. The same sense of anarchy that ruled Duck Soup or A Night At The Opera can be felt on the screen when watching The Interview. Maybe not to the same extent as Goldberg and Rogen's previous film This Is The End, but that free-for-all atmosphere is still there even in the face of an actual plot and storyline. The Interview isn't a great film, and it won't be to everyone's taste. If you enjoy toilet humour and slapstick and jokes that would make a teen-aged boy blush, The Interview is probably right up your alley. I enjoyed it, it made me laugh out loud quite a bit.
It would have been nice to watch The Interview without all the weight that's been attached to it. Without the fallout from the Sony hack, without the death threats, without the symbol that it has become. But I'm afraid that won't be possible for a while. Not while people are dying because other people's belief systems are offended.
And the questions have to be asked: Is this a movie worth killing over? Or a movie worth dying over? Not by any stretch of the imagination. It's just a dumb movie.
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