Review: The Interview
Believe it or not, Seth Rogan and James Franco managed to create a real conflict, however minor, between North Korea and the United States, with a movie absolutely seething with unbridled, loud America-brand stupidity. Filled with rather easy pop culture references steeped in celebrity culture, and a knowledge of social justice neither particularly intelligent nor carefully done despite dealing with immensely heavy subject matter, Sony’s The Interview does not exactly impress with its writing. With all that being said, it is hard to deny how technically well-made the film is, and how many genuinely strong laughs it manages to find itself worthy of. It has its troubles, but it’s a technically great and generally decent flick that finds some joy in a lot of ridiculousness as well as in a little bit of nuance in its commentary on celebrity-gossip journalism.
The opening scenes of The Interview actually serve as a pretty apt summation of the movie’s quality. A young Asian girl sings a song with ghastly lyrics that wishes ill upon the United States, going from as tame as accusing Americans of being fat, to wishing beasts rape American women for American children to watch. It’s here that the movie’s troublesome portrayal of social justice begins, exploiting a serious women’s issue like rape for a plot device in a dumbass movie with no shortage of shocking things that could have been said by a fictionalized version of the real-life North Korea. After, viewers are treated to a juxtaposition between how the more serious media outlets cover this performance (and the military action from North Korea that followed) and the goofy, trivial kind of journalism Aaron Rapaport (played by Rogan) and Dave Skylark (played by Franco) beam across the country at the same time. Funny cameos from Eminem and Rob Lowe characterize the film’s main characters in an enjoyable fashion while simultaneously satirizing the real, embarrassing side of contemporary journalism.
It’s easy to view the rest of the film’s content similarly. Whenever the two dopes score an interview with evil dictator Kim Jong Un (played by Randall Park) on their joke of a television show, Skylark buddies around with Un and hits it off almost immediately. Un is a huge fan of the idiotic Skylark, and the two enjoy playing basketball and taking a tank for a spin whilst jamming with some Katy Perry and margaritas, the latter activity totally not gay, says the two heterosexuals, amusingly insecure in their sexual orientation. Unfortunately, they also sleep with a ton of beautiful women in North Korea like the dunderheaded men they are; this ultimately comes off as more than a little uncomfortable, considering the context of how the actual North Korea under Un treats women.
The majority of the content in The Interview is harmless, filled with comedy like slapstick and exaggerated expression. The butt off these jokes are the stupid main characters and the evil dictator, who is more than worthy of the piss being taken out of him. The acting is great, Rogen playing an effective straight-man to Franco’s positively bonkers, over-the-top performance. Park’s Un is particularly hilarious, acting like a spoiled, bratty and weak child, cutting into the literal man in a satisfying fashion. When it comes to even more technical aspects of movie-making, like cinematography, The Interview continues to impress with stunning wide-angle shots that accompany the rest of the always dynamic and cool visuals.
It’s just hard to ignore that this movie isn’t done as carefully as should have been, especially considering the sensitive subject matter. Django Unchained is a good example of this done right, with its wacky comedy and action served alongside an honest and genuine portrayal of slavery. Currently, North Korea is horrifically torturing and denying civil rights of its citizens, all the while propping up a disgusting fascist as a literal god. It would have been nice if, in between solid comedy appealing to average, globally-privileged Americans, some light was shone wholesomely on the injustice in North Korea. There are much more substantial problems in North Korea than fake grocery stores and planted “fat kids,” which serves as the shock to Skylark’s system that illuminates the amoral nature of that country’s government.
The USA’s guarantee of freedom of speech saved this movie, and it’s an alright piece of cinema that is enjoyable to watch. It even manages to do some okay satire of an issue relevant more or less only to Americans. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough intelligence on display to save this movie from its discomforting habit of prancing around, ignorantly telling its jokes. At the end of the day, though, how can one not laugh at Kim Jong Un crumbling to tears over the lyrical content of Katy Perry’s “Firework”? It’s funny, gosh-darn it.
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