Possibly THE most controversial film of all-time finally hits UK cinemas, as Seth Rogan and friends whip up a political storm in The Interview… But after all the endless press attention, is it more King Jong-Wrong than good?
There has been a lot of controversy around The Interview, the Seth Rogen and James Franco comedy about killing North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. Given the premise, this isn’t exactly surprising, but then you remember who is making the film. This is the kind of raunchy, foul-mouthed, silly, but smart comedy we’ve come to expect for Rogen, but it certainly is no threat to anyone or anything.
A group called Guardians of Peace, which are believed to have connections to North Korea, hacked Sony Pictures, the studio behind The Interview, in hopes of intimidating the company into not releasing the film. When that failed, a threat of a 9/11-style attack was made on the world premiere.
The wide release of the film in the United States was canceled and a video-on-demand release was announced. Rogen and Franco remain alive and the world in one piece. We can see the controversy was what it always was: much ado about nothing.
The actual film, is pretty good, not great, but funny and entertaining. On the surface, The Interview seems profoundly stupid. It relies far too heavily on jokes about body parts and functions from the waist down, but buried under all the scatological and puerile material there are some actual ideas.
Franco stars as Dave Skylark, the preening star of tabloid news program called Skylark Tonight. His best friend and producer, Aaron Rapoport (Rogen), is tired of pandering to the lowest common denominator and wants to do real, credible reporting.
When the duo discovers that Kim Jong-un (Randall Park) is a fan of a show, they approach him about an interview and, much to their surprise, he agrees to one. Enter the CIA, in the form of Lizzy Caplan, who ask Dave and Aaron to assassinate the North Korean leader.
Skylark Tonight is used to take solid satirical swipes at news as entertainment and gossip-based journalism. There’s a juicy cameo by Eminem, in which he mocks his image. The reaction to a revelation he makes is hilariously and sadly accurate.
What is most unexpected about The Interview is that the portrayal of Kim Jong-un is surprisingly sympathetic, even tragic. While Kim Jong-un is certainly not made out to be a good guy — the film spotlights issues of propaganda and hunger — but he’s shown to be a victim of circumstance and that it was perhaps inevitable that he would follow in his father’s cruel footsteps.
Basically, he is shown as a man with daddy issues, which is a typical theme of arrested development comedies and is an overly simplistic reading of a complex political situation, but it works satirically and yields some big laughs.
Rogen and co-directed Evan Goldberg have made another audaciously over-the-top comedy following 2013’s This Is the End that proves to actually be thoughtful. While there is a climactic action scene with gore and explosions, the more lasting message is that words can have a far more powerful impact than a bullet. That is perhaps an overly idealistic view, but I’ll gladly take a side order of optimism and hope with my main course of butt and penis jokes.