“The Interview” (2014)

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★★★½☆

So with all the hoopla around this movie and it being Christmas Eve I figured: “What the hell, lets do something for Freedom Of Expression” and I saw “The Interview.” It wasn’t as bad as I expected – the teasers they’d been showing are quite misleading. The ads make this look like a goofy slap-stick comedy – and it does have those elements – but there’s a lot more going on.

Lets get the serious question out of the way first. I can see why Kim Jong-un didn’t like this movie. I don’t think it had anything to do with him getting blown up in the end. The movie portrays him as a maniacal master manipulator. He dupes James Franco’s character (“Dave Skylark” .. a schlocky celebrity interviewer) into believing that he’s a cool guy who’s just misunderstood. And this deception is done masterfully. You start wondering if maybe he really is just misunderstood and maybe there’s a peaceful resolution to the conflict. And then things take a savage turn and the “real” Kim Jong-un reveals himself. And the real Kim Jong-un is every bit the evil overlord we expect.

This middle part of the movie is really well done. There’s still a lot of funny stuff, but you just don’t expect to see Kim Jong-un playing basketball and listening to Katy Perry. I’m not sure they were really trying to make a statement about how leaders can manipulate the media, but you rarely see a sociopathic personality portrayed so convincingly.

The first part of the movie is kind of an attack on the whole fixation with celebrity interview. Rob Lowe is amongst the faux interviews and they’re all done well. It’s a bit over-the-top in sensationalism, but that was probably the point.

The finale is pretty bloody and it feels like they were just trying to end the movie. The attention to detail went down and the pace picked up. A lot of the plot points are predictable, but it’s not completely telegraphed. The dick-and-fart jokes are everywhere and will turn a lot of people off. The content didn’t bug me, but it got kind of repetitious – there’s just so many times you can talk about shoving stuff up one’s ass before it gets old.

Seth Rogan (who also wrote and directed) does a good job as Skylark’s producer. He’s more or less the voice of reason throughout, whereas Franco’s Skylark is your typical narcissistic “celebrity” type. Franco does well, but his character also gets tiresome about two-thirds through. Randall Park plays Kim Jong-un and really does a great job in the role – he pretty much steals the show. He can change from smoothly charming to bat-shit crazy in a wink.

The other theme which probably pissed the real Kim Jong-un off was that his people would revolt if they ever saw him for what he really is. Which isn’t to say the movie shouldn’t have been made, but this is a pretty sharp attack on his person – especially if this depiction of him as a sociopath becomes part of pop-culture.

One unfortunate thing is that this movie could have been more constructive. That is, it showed a side of Kim Jong-un that no one really considers – that he’s a young guy in charge of a country. This would have been a completely different kind of movie if they changed the direction so that maybe Kim Jong-un found some common ground with the Americans and, through that, relations were improved. It’d still have been just as funny a movie, but it would have had a better message and a more surprising finale.

This is a decently funny movie – not laugh-out-loud funny, but some good chuckles throughout. It’s well made and well-paced. There’s enough frat-house humor to keep it light, but it gets old in a hurry. And the acting is pretty solid. My biggest complaint is that it could have been so much more. It could have actually said something. I wouldn’t pay theatre price for it, but since it’s available online it’s worth a watch at that price.