Director: Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg
Cast: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Randall Park, Lizzy Caplan
The Interview has found its place amongst the most controversial films of all time. Last month, hackers calling themselves Guardians of Peace broke into Sony Pictures and leaked troves of data and compromising information online. The attack was timed with the approaching release date of this Seth Rogen, James Franco-starrer whose premise is two journalists reaching Pyongyang and assassinating its supreme leader, Kim Jong-un.
The hack attack was followed by threats that theatres will be attacked 9/11-style if they show The Interview. Sony pulled out the film and faced a backlash for the decision. End result: Sony released the film online and in 500 independent theatres.
So, thanks to North Korea and its tactics, an essentially silly film now stands for freedom of expression and, therefore, is indispensable cinema. That means a lot of us will be watching it online to find out if it really was worth, to borrow an expression off Dhanush, all that Kolaveri Di?
The answer is absolutely not. The film would have come and gone without changing how the world views Kim Jong-un. If anything, the North Korean leader, as performed by Randall Park, comes across as a likeable man with serious daddy issues who cannot come to terms with the fact that he is leading a country at the age of 31.
Park's subtle performance is one of the best in this loud, puerile film which takes pride in its over-the-top tone. Vulnerable and human, he comes across as just the guy next door, albeit one with a hand on nuclear switch.
So, what made North Korea go ballistic and become the launchpad of a hack attack? We will never know. Team America: World Police (2004) did a much better job of lampooning North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and still went unscathed at box office.
Moving on to the film's story: Dave Skylark is an oily TV presenter who revels in his role. His show presents the regular tabloid/entertainment news with occasional breaking news thrown in. An entertaining example is Eminem coming out as gay on the show. "It is like I have been playing gay peek-a-boo," he quips.
Dave's producer Aaron (Seth Rogen) has been having an existential crisis. Tired of this schmaltzy fluff, he wants to work in real news. Not ready to let him go, Dave jumps at a chance to interview Kim Jong-un who is revealed as a big fan of the show. North Korea's demands are clear: the show will be scripted and will take place at Pyongyang.
That's when hot CIA operative Lizzy Caplan finds them. Her directive to them is to take KIm out. "Take him out to dinner, to drinks?" the duo asks. The assassination is to take place with a strip of poison which will be transmitted during a handshake; the death will happen within 12 hours.
As it always happens in screwball comedies when CIA sends the wrong people out, things go disastrously wrong. For one, Dave and Kim meet each other and it is bromance at first sight. Second, they end up losing the poison strip. Many butt jokes and scenes of graphic violence later, they manage to get their groove back.
What works for the film is its comedic audacity. Nobody is a holy cow, especially not America and its pop culture. Scenes shot on the American soil throw up the best of gags, most of them too crude to reproduce. Things are less sure when the scene shifts to North Korea (or the palace of Kim that passes off for North Korea). With most of the scenes shot inside the sets, the film fails to give us any insight in the Mad Hatter's world that's the totalitarian regime.
Franco and Rogen are both in their elements. They are enjoying what they are doing and it shows. The jokes are infantile and sometimes fail to hit their target. This is no cult film or satire, it is a dumb comedy that is strangely enjoyable.