It’s strange to watch ‘The Interview’ as though it’s some sort of massively important monument in the history of free speech. That’s what the film has become lately, yet it puts you in the wrong mindset to appreciate a movie that’s more concerned with fart and dick jokes than breaking any barriers through satire.
I’m sure that Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg feel the same way. They made something purely intended to be hilarious that accidentally became important. Never forget that order of intent and please appreciate the poo jokes at least as much as the freedom.
As anyone who has seen a Seth Rogen movie before likely could have guessed, ‘The Interview’ is not some sort of vicious political satire too searing for theater screens. It’s not ‘The Great Dictator’. It’s not ‘Dr. Strangelove’. It’s not even ‘Team America’. Rogen and his writing/producing/directing/life partner Goldberg have made something closer to Woody Allen’s ‘Bananas’. The story plays around with a real and dangerous world, but only for the sake of goofy humor.
Sure, some of the laughs sting, and clearly the duo knew they were courting controversy with their project. However, these guys aren’t trying to make a grand statement or piss off a political leader regardless of how things ultimately worked out. They just like R-rated comedy that skirts around various genres and taboos on the way to a Grade-A gross-out gag. Nothing wrong with that. The boys are good at it and even pretty talented and adventurous in their own goofball way. One day, they’ll likely make something daring and dangerous. ‘The Interview’ just isn’t that movie, regardless of what you may have heard.
The plot, as has been recounted endlessly, involves James Franco’s vapid celebrity interviewer getting invited to interview Kim Jong-un (Randall Park) in North Korea. The most biting satirical target in the whole flick is the absurdity of celebrity news journalism. Lovable moron Franco’s secret-homosexuality chat with Eminem or his bald-reveal exclusive with Rob Lowe prove to get far more media attention than impending attacks against America from North Korea.
It turns out that Kim loves Franco’s show, and invites him (along with his producer played by Rogen) to fly over for an exclusive chit-chat. Shortly after hearing this news, the CIA sends out Lizzy Caplan to recruit idiots Rogen and Franco to kill the leader of North Korea. After a few montages of them fucking up assassination training exercises, they head over to the troubled country. Franco soon spends some private time with Kim. After bonding over margaritas, tank warfare and Katy Perry, he starts to question whether or not that whole assassination thing is a good idea.
Essentially, it’s a romp – one that leans heavily on gags involving characters shoving military hardware up buttholes, and evil dictators weeping at soft pop ballads. The good news is that most of those gags are pretty damn inspired. Franco and Rogen’s dumbbell/smartypants comedy team is tried and true, and delivers the goods once more. Park’s King Jong-un with a heart of gold is an absolute delight, and Lizzy Caplan knows her way around deadpan comedy. (See ‘Party Down’ for more.)
As filmmakers, Rogen and Goldberg are getting better at what they do: slickly mimicking Hollywood genre filmmaking, delivering harsh violence for goofy laughs, and balancing out their improve-fests with crafted filmmaking. ‘The Interview’ is damn entertaining and damn funny. Sure, jokes fall flat, the haggard narrative can sag a bit while racing to the punchlines, and it’s a bit predictable for anyone with a brain and a wealth of shock comedies under their belt. But these inconsistencies and flaws are almost part of the Rogen/Goldberg shaggy dog style and hardly kill the movie.
The only thing that makes ‘The Interview’ hard to take is the weight of expectation. This movie has become far too culturally important for the simple, filthy pleasures it actually provides. The best approach is to try and shove all that from your mind and simply view the movie as Rogen and Goldberg originally intended: a dirty, silly, stupid/smart follow-up to ‘This Is the End’. That’s all it is and all it needs to be. If you don’t like what they do, you won’t like the movie. Thankfully, many do, and even better, those folks can actually see it now. Things were dicey for a while there, just in case you didn’t notice.