I am sure most of you have already heard about all these fusses around a comedy film called “The Interview”. The movie was scheduled to get a wide release in US and Canada in last December, but Sony suddenly canceled its theatrical release right after an anonymous hacking attack on the company’s computer network, which was thought to be associated with North Korea. The movie drew lots of attention from the media thanks to this incident, and then, as the audiences consequently became more eager to watch, Sony eventually released it around a small number of movie theaters on Christmas while also releasing through Internet streaming services.
A few weeks have passed now, and this incident and the following unwise decision made by Sony look sillier than before. In fact, this was actually a far funnier farce compared to the movie itself, an insipid comedy which does not provide many laughs despite its outrageous premise. It could have been a good starting point for funny satire with some edges, but its goofy plot goes for familiar raunchy comedy instead, and the movie even fails even in that attempt while scoring only one or two laughs during its running time.
The best part of the film happens during its first 10 minutes, and it is not even involved with its main target. Dave Skylark, played by James Franco with the tiresome attitude of a grating overachiever, is the host of a popular TV talk show ‘Skylark’, and he and his friend/producer Aaron Rapaport (Seth Rogen) hit another glorious moment of their rising respective careers when a certain well-known rapper, who is excellent in his deadpan cameo appearance, flatly comes out of the closet right in the middle of Dave’s broadcast interview.
While enjoying their continuing success, Aaron, who has always wanted a more serious career, feels more of his growing discontent with their shallow talk show which is full of superficial celebrity gossips, but then he sees an interesting opportunity when he happens to learn that Kim Jung-un, the infamous new dictator of North Korea, is a fan of their talk show. He attempts to make a contact with the North Korean government, and, surprise, the North Korean government approaches to him faster than expected. Although Kim Jung-un himself will not come to New York for interview, he invites Aaron and Dave to Pyongyang instead, and he is willing to be interviewed exclusively by Dave under a few conditions which Aaron and Dave has no problem with.
Aaron and Dave cannot possibly be more excited by this golden opportunity to be envied by many journalists around the world, but then they get into a more serious situation when they are visited by CIA agents, who want Aaron and Dave to assassinate Kim Jung-un. Because North Korea has recently become a bigger threat thanks to more nuclear weapons and more powerful rockets, CIA wants to eliminate Kim Jung-un, and Agent Lacey (Lizzy Caplan) and others see Dave’s interview as a very good chance even though Dave is apparently not reliable as an assassin to be trained.
Anyway, Dave and Aaron agree to collaborate with CIA, and they soon arrive at Pyongyang with a specially designed assassination tool which looks a lot like a band-aid. After the greeting at the airport, they are immediately sent to Kim Jung-un’s big palace as accompanied with a young propaganda officer Sook (Diana Bing in a thankless Asian stereotype character), and then they meet Kim Jung-un, who is broadly played by Randall Park with lots of smiles somewhere between Mao Zedong and Kim Jung-un’s notorious grandfather Kim Il-sung.
To Dave and Aaron’s surprise, Kim Jung-un turns out to be more likable while still being your average spoiled despot, and Dave finds himself having a great time with Kim Jung-un as they have lots of juvenile fun with vehicles, drinks, and sexy women ready to serve them. Aaron naturally becomes concerned about this because it may not only compromise their secret mission but also endanger him and his friend, and that accordingly strains their relationship as Dave and Kim Jung-un hang around with each other more day by day.
Like “Pineapple Express” (2008), “The Interview” attempts a raunchy bromance comedy amid outrageous moments, but it frequently falters during many of its attempts. The story by the directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg and their co-writer Dan Sterling is mostly predictable in its plot turns, and many comic scenes are flat and uninspired without enough amount of surprise, which is always a crucial element of good comedy. There is actually one moment that did surprise me with a shot of bad taste involved with bodily fluids, but that moment is not very funny either as I think more about it.
Seth Rogen and James Franco are talented comedians as shown in their works including “Pineapple Express” and “This is the End” (2013), but they are stuck with a bad script in this time. While Franco tries too hard to be an obnoxious self-absorbed jerk, Rogen tries to complement Franco with his usual likable presence, but he also has his own cringe-inducing moments such as when his character must hide a metal carrier into one of his orifices (please don’t ask me about the location). Randall Park is adequate as Kim Jung-un, but he lacks menace as the megalomaniac bad guy of the story, and the shoot-them-up climax of the film feels particularly weak as it lets his character get off too easily.
“The interview” is a lazy, pointless comedy which sadly wastes its satiric potentials, but it has a right to be shown to the audiences like any other films none the less, and I am glad about its eventual release although I do not recommend it at all. As a South Korean guy who hates North Korea and despises its deranged dictatorship, I may say that I am one of its ideal target audiences, but, boy, this is not even funny to me at all.