THE INTERVIEW (2014)
Running Time: 112 mins. Rating: x Stars/5 Stars
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen
Language: English and Korean w/English subtitles
Cast: James Franco, Seth Rogen, Lizzy Caplan, Randall Park, Dian Bang, Timothy Simons, Reese Alexander, James Yi, Paul Bae, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Eminem, Rob Lowe, Bill Maher, Guy Fieri
Most of the civilized world loved America in 1945. The U.S. was a prime force in liberating Europe from the Hun. Our soldiers gave out chewing gum to the kids on the Continent, soft toilet paper to the adults, and dished out money to bail the good guys out via the Marshall Plan. Given the rules of engagement in our current century, it’s unlikely that we can ever be the heroes abroad that we were then, evoking an unconditional surrender of our enemies in a war that lasted just six years (four years for our own guys), and not the murky condition of our battles in the Middle East since Shock and Awe, as the Taliban in Afghanistan retake some of the territory ceded to the moderates in a fragile victory.
No, if the world is going to continue to love America, it is not for our firepower but for our zany sense of humor and the way that Hollywood’s big bucks are able to eke out the laughs through clever satirical scripts and, on the other side, sexually driven, juvenile humor.
THE INTERVIEW, with its ample improvisation from A-list actors like James Franco and Seth Rogen, attacks one of the world’s most frightening totalitarian regimes, but not with the kinds of invective used by North Korean posters that make the people believe that their country’s foreign policy consists of stepping on the butts of members of the armed forces with bayonets at the ready if they dare to get up from the ground. THE INTERVIEW is a prime example of the latter type of comedy: it is certainly not a clever satire like my favorite, THANK YOU FOR SMOKING, a subtle but hilarious look at the triumvirate of death-dealers—tobacco, alcohol, and firearms. It is blatantly juvenile; though likely, as not to be dismissed by some folks in the teen and 20-something communities because it deals with the foreign politics that some of our iPhone addicted youths may know nothing about. In fact it is more likely to turn on middlebrows, people like me whose college major was Political Science, who follow the New York Times and the books of Henry Kissinger, but who are not afraid to say that they enjoyed the star power of Franco and Rogen doing what they do best.
If the movie can be criticized at all, it should not be because of its puerility, but rather because the jokes—improvised that many are—are hit and miss, and because of the off-timing of some of its more pedestrian scenes.
James Franco performs in the role of Dave Skylark, a hail-fellow newscaster-interviewer and his producer, Aaron Rapaport, played by Seth Rogen. They have been colleagues in the news fraternity for years and enjoy a relationship that while not a gay one represents a bond of strong friendship. Their popularity on the Dave Skylark show is their appeal to “People” magazine sorts, those who can’t wait to text their friends on their Samsung phones when they hear Marshall Bruce Mathews III, aka Eminem, casually come out as Gay during his chat with Skylark. The show is popular as well with the elusive dictator Kim Jong-Un, who has followed his father and grandfather at the helm of government in the hermit state of North Korea. So much does Kim, played by Randall Park in a grandly effective performance, like the Dave Skylark show that he invites the interviewer and his producer to his country to give him a one-hour live interview before an estimated fifteen million of the country’s population of twenty-four million. It is to be broadcast around the world as well.
While the two Americans have heard that poverty and even starvation exist particularly in the rural parts of the country where presumably there are horrendous concentration camps as well, their views are turned around by the friendliness not only of Kim—who bonds with Skylark–and of the Communications Minister, Sook, played by Diana Bang. While Sook and Rapaport are to engage in a sexual union—one of the high improbabilities made almost believable by their performances, Skylark and Kim become buddy-buddy, sharing intimate secrets, with Kim’s expectation of a puff interview. Little do Kim and his bodyguards—all speaking perfect English—know, that Agent Lacey (Lizzy Caplan) has convinced the two travelers to “take him out,” meaning to assassinate Kim with a poisoned bandage, in the hope that the death of a ruler thought to be a god would incite a democratic revolution. Nor does Dave Skylark realize that Kim is a false buddy who, according to Dave’s producer, has been “honeydicking” him.
Some bloggers have said that it’s our patriotic duty to see the movie, with its depiction of good (us guys) and evil (their guys), but one suspects (or hopes) that most of these writers are being ironic. No, it’s not patriotic to see the movie, but discounting its misses, this is juvenile fun that should be seen at least because of the controversy it aroused when Sony, its distributor, announced that the film would not be released to theaters because allegedly North Korea threatened to bomb theaters showing it. When Sony backed off from its declaration, in part because even President Obama criticized the company for caving in to terrorists, some theaters nationwide showed the movie on its regularly scheduled opening day, Christmas.
If you don’t get to see THE INTERVIEW on the big screen, you can set your browser to http://SeeTheInterview.com, pay $5.99 with your credit card, and enjoy (or don’t) the film as many times as you’d like for forty-eight hours.
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