I’d been putting it off for a month, so today I finally got around to watching Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg’s The Interview. I haven’t been paying close attention to the hubbub about the movie’s cancellation and reinstitution, but it’s hard to ignore all the chatter about the Sony hack and whether North Korea was or wasn’t behind it. Conspiracy theorists even think that Sony faked the hack to drum up support for the movie; it’s made like $40 million digitally, after all. But I wasn’t thinking about all that when I watched it. I was just curious to see how it portrayed Kim Jong-un. For all the movie’s flaws, I really enjoyed how it handled that.
(I’m going to spoil the ending of this movie. Everyone’s probably heard about it already, but all the same, you’ve been warned!)
The movie starts off pretty engagingly. We meet James Franco’s Dave Skylark, an interviewer specializing in celebrity gossip, and his somewhat uptight producer, Seth Rogan’s Aaron Rapaport. Dave is interviewing Eminem, who comes out as gay on camera. This whole sequence isn’t laugh out loud funny, but Eminem does a really good job in the part and I was enjoying it.
The next scene made me question why I was even watching this movie. Dave throws a surprise party for Aaron and makes a speech where he summarizes their history together. It’s a totally unnecessary scene. We already know the dynamic of their relationship from how they’re behaving; we don’t need Dave to ham-fistedly explain why they’re friends or how they met. Franco ends the speech by doing a really bizarre impression of Smeagol from Lord of the Rings. I guess the joke is that the impression is so bad that it’s funny, but I was just cringing and shaking my head. I’ve heard that James Franco is a huge Tolkien fan, which explains all the pointless Lord of the Rings references crammed into the movie, starting with this one.
I was also wondering during this scene if Dave and Aaron were gay lovers. Dave has been gushing over Aaron and acting like he can’t live without him, so I’m sitting here waiting for them to just start making out. I feel like that would have made the dynamic of the movie way more interesting. There’s definitely a homosexual/bi-curious subtext to the movie that’s played for laughs, but it would have been so much better if they just went all the way with it.
James Franco is the worst part about the first half of the movie. He almost made me give up on it, to be honest. His performance is all over the place. It feels like the director told him to do whatever he wanted in each scene and just kept the first take. There’s no consistency to it and so many of his lines just fall flat because of the terrible delivery. Granted, sometimes the script is just weak, but there were a lot of cases where a few more takes or better editing could have saved a bad scene.
Seth Rogan is more consistent, but he doesn’t do anything very funny or interesting, at least not during the first half. He has this bad habit of repeating his lines several times, and it gets old fast. His character’s motivation isn’t developed at all. All we get is a brief scene where Anders Holm tells him he’s not a serious journalist, which of course makes him question his entire life and immediately become driven to do serious interviews.
Lizzy Caplan’s CIA Agent Lacey shows up to convince Dave and Aaron to go assassinate Kim Jong-un, using her prominent cleavage as leverage. This starts a running gag where a character gets honeypotted by a female character or honeydicked by a male character. I actually liked this joke a lot, especially when Franco looks at an attractive male CIA Agent as says “You honeydickin?!” Caplan, unfortunately, was just not right for this part. She’s a goofy, quirky actress, and as much as I love her, this role called for a more severe and commanding performance. There aren’t even very many comedic lines for Caplan to deliver, so I wonder why she’s in the movie at all.
Finally, though, we get to North Korea. The movie really picks up at this point. Randall Park is really good as Kim Jong-un. He plays the Supreme Leader as sheepish and shy, a lover of margaritas and Katy Perry, and it’s hilarious. I really enjoyed watching him and Franco get to know one another. They have great chemistry, and you actually start to empathize with Kim as he gently rebuffs Dave’s criticisms of the country’s problems. He seems vulnerable and weighed down by his father’s shadow, and while you know it’s going to turn out to be a honeydick in the end, it feels like there’s some serious emotional baggage there. Kim is easily the most interesting character in the movie thanks to Park’s amazingly nuanced performance.
Diana Bang is also quite good as Sook Yung Park, Kim’s PR director who’s ready to turn on him and may or may not be honeypotting Aaron. She doesn’t have much to work with, but she makes you care about her character pretty quickly. It doesn’t hurt that Ms. Bang is very easy on the eyes. And she’s funny: her delivery of the line “He does not have a butthole,” in reference to Kim, had me in stitches.
I knew going in that the movie culminated in Kim’s violent assassination, and the final action sequence is one of the strongest parts of the movie. I loved watching Franco, Rogan, Bang, and an adorable puppy dog drive a tank between a bunch of nuclear missile launch silos while Kim swoops in on a helicopter guns a-blazing. The slo-mo effects as the good guys fire the tank shell which explodes Kim’s helicopter, and his face, are awesome. It ends perfectly, with us seeing the Supreme Leader’s mouth ripple as his skin catches fire to the tune of Katy Perry’s Firework.
I can’t shake the feeling that this movie could have been improved in editing. A bunch of the setup in America is painfully unfunny, and Franco’s scenes needed severe reigning in. Even so, The Interview isn’t an inherently bad movie. It had some good laughs and a strong second half, thanks in large part to Randall Park. It’s not that great, but considering it’s on Netflix, you may as well give it a watch, if only for the Kim Jong-un death scene.