Now that Sony has withdrawn The Interview from its Dec. 25 release date — a move that could possibly bury the movie forever — movie fans who never got a glimpse of the James Franco–Seth Rogen comedy are asking themselves: What is it about The Interview that made it so contentious? Was the flare-up at all deserved? And, perhaps most importantly: Is the movieany good?
Having seen The Interview at a press screening earlier this month, I can report that it is indeed pretty funny — though not as funny as the fact that an international incident has been provoked by an agreeably dumb stoner-comedy that focuses way more on penis- and poop-jokes than politics.
But you probably have other pressing questions about The Interview. So fire away, but be warned: Spoilers abound!
So, does Kim Jong-un actually get murdered on-screen?
Yep! Not only do Rogen and Franco’s characters kill the North Korean leader at the film’s end, they also help turn his country into a democracy. The death scene — which leaked online earlier this week — is comically grisly, and required an exhausting back-and-forth between the CEO of Sony, the studio head Amy Pascal, and Rogen himself to decide just how many burn marks and embers Kim would have on his face before he totally bit the dust.
But that’s just one of many low-brow moments in the movie, and hardly the most memorable. In fact, the scene that sticks out most is a sequence in which Rogen shoves a beer-mug-sized drone into his rectum in a moment of desperation. It’s that kind of movie.
Okay, but back to the murder: How do these two characters get close enough to assassinate a world leader?
In the film, Rogen and Franco play Aaron Rapaport and Dave Skylark — the producer and host, respectively, of a vapid celebrity-interview talk-show, the kind you might see on, say, Headline News (side note: Why are you watching Headline News?). The duo’s big “gets” include Eminem (who, in one of the film’s funniest surprise cameos, comes out as gay) and Rob Lowe (surprise: He even looks good bald!). But Rogen’s character, Aaron, wants to branch out into more serious journalism.
As it turns out, Kim Jong-un (played by Veep’s Randall Park) is a huge fan of Skylark’s show, and agrees to grant Skylark a very rare one-on-one interview in his mansion in Pyongyang. After an all-night Ecstasy trip, Skylark and Rapaport are visited by a CIA agent (played by Masters of Sex star Lizzy Caplan), who enlist this dumb and dumber duo to kill the most autocratic, eccentric dictator in the world.
So they head off to North Korea, charged with freeing an entire nation of a dictator who subjects are forced to regard as a god.
How does The Interview depict Kim before he gets wiped out?
On their trip, Skylark, an idiot with daddy issues, gets summoned to hang out with Kim, who’s also depicted as an idiot with daddy issues. Unsurprisingly, the two bond, bro-ing out as they play basketball, listen to Katy Perry, and trample the countryside in a tank, all the while talking about their feelings.
From everything we know in real life, Kim seems to be a petulant man-child who loves basketball and murdering people that annoy him. But in the movie, he’s almost sympathetic when he talks about the great pressure he’s under to follow both his father’s legacy. He just wants to have fun, and now he’s got to deal with leading an autocratic regime!
Then again, as Skylark and Rapaport note incessantly throughout the film, Kim was “honey-dicking” Skylark, which basically means buttering him up for preferential treatment. The questions for the interview were pre-supplied by the North Korean government, but Kim just really wants to make sure that the host leaves the country with the best impression possible.
But Skylark is a big enough dummy to fall for Kim’s horse and pony show — at least until later in the film, when Kim freaks out and shows his true self.
This sounds pretty funny! How’s the guy who plays Kim Jong-un?
Randall Park, who you may know from the most recent season of Veep, is pretty funny! He gained a bunch of weight, shaved his head to mimic Kim’s ridiculous haircut, and really committed to the insanity of his character. The Interview could have been a breakout moment for the 40-year-old actor; instead, his hilarious turn is on the shelf.
What’s Rogen’s character doing during all of this?
Well, Rapaport — aside from freaking out the entire time — is soon falling in love with Sook (Diana Bang), Kim’s top PR minister, who actually hates her boss, and is trying to sabotage his regime. There’s a funny sex scene in which Rapaport, wearing a specially made poison-strip intended for the dictator, is frantically trying to remove the device as Sook tries to get up all in his business.
Is there any serious stuff in the movie about North Korea, or is it all a goof?
There are a few cursory nods to the various myths North Koreans are forced to believe about about Kim (he’s so perfect, the story goes, that he doesn’t even pee or poo). And references are made to the horrible treatment that the country’s 25 million citizens must endure.But mostly, it’s a comedy about friendship, penises, and butts, and while that makes it a fun time at the theater, it’s not like anyone is going to confuse it for a documentary.
Reviews have largely reflected this assessment. Entertainment Weekly’s Joe McGovern said that “It’s a pity that the film is bereft of satiric zing, bludgeoning the laughs with a nonstop sledgehammer of bro humor,” and Time’s Richard Corliss concurs, writing that “if you’re hoping for any cogent political satire here, then the joke’s on you.”
Ultimately, The Interview was never supposed to be a brainy political satire; it’s only taken on this sort of import because North Korea has taken the film so seriously.
Ultimately, where does it rank in the Rogen-Franco canon?
It’s definitely not as good as their previous big screen collaborations, This is The End and Pineapple Express, but it’s still a good time. Or, would have been, anyway.