Starring: James Franco, Seth Rogen, Randall Park, Lizzy Caplan, Diana Bang
SKYLARK – “Holy fuckamole! Is that tank real?”
KIM JONG-UN – “It was a gift to my grandfather from Stalin.”
SKYLARK – “In my country it’s pronounced ‘Stallone’.”
Few films have courted as much controversy as The Interview has this year.
Originally due for mainstream cinema release, an alleged North Korean hack of Sony Pictures and threats made to cinemas planning to show it caused the studio to initially pull the film shortly before it was due to come out.
After objections were raised by none other than President Obama, Sony Pictures did a u-turn and not only released the film in a select number of cinemas, but also made it available for purchase digitally. On Xbox. Despite being Sony.
Why the drama? Because the film takes the piss out of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and has a plot based on an attempt to assassinate him.
This obviously isn’t the first time a comedy film’s mocked a present-day dictator: the Three Stooges did it way back in 1940 with You Nazty Spy, followed shortly by Charlie Chaplin’s fantastic The Great Dictator.
It isn’t even the first to mock a North Korean one, given Team America‘s less than glowing portrayal of the Great Leader’s dad, Kim Jong-il. However, it’s one of the rare occasions in which a film about a dictator-run country is met with condemnation and threats by said country before it’s even released.
Is the actual film itself worth all the fuss though? Well, having watched it I can proudly declare that the answer is an overwhelming “meh”.
The Interview stars James Franco as Dave Skylark, a charismatic presenter of a US entertainment interview show. He’s charming enough to get his interviewees to reveal their deepest, darkest secrets on air (as seen in a couple of genuinely funny cameos at the start of the movie), and as such his show is hugely successful in America and beyond.
This is partly thanks to his long-time producer Aaron (Seth Rogen), who’s the best in the business… even though he sometimes wishes he was doing ‘real’ journalism shows rather than frothy gossip fare.
Things get interesting when Aaron receives a call informing him that Kim Jong-un, an apparent fan of the show, wants Skylark to exclusively interview him in North Korea. Sensing the scoop of the century, the pair agree.
The CIA has other plans, however. Rather than simply letting him go to North Korea and host the interview, they want Skylark to assassinate Kim by applying a lethal dose of ricin to his skin when he shakes his hand.
Ready to do his bit for his country, Skylark is thrown when he meets Kim and realises that not only is he a massive fan of the show, he’s also apparently a lovely chap who claims he’s merely being misunderstood by the American media.
Can Skylark carry out the CIA’s assassination mission, or will his newfound friendship with Kim Jong-un prevent him from doing so? Well, that would be telling, but North Korea were obviously pissed off with this film for a reason.
My opinion of The Interview was brought fully into perspective when I tweeted earlier this week that I’d watched it. “Was it as good as This Is The End?”, someone asked me.
“Nowhere near it,” was my reply. And that’s pretty much what it comes down to. It’s a fun enough film, it’ll make you laugh a couple of times, and fans of Rogen and Franco’s comedy will find enough to keep them satisfied.
But when you compare it to most of the major comedies either of them have starred in in the past – This Is The End, Pineapple Express, Knocked Up, Bad Neighbours, even Zack & Miri Make A Porno – it doesn’t really outdo any of them.
There are some memorable moments. An early cameo by a certain famous rapper offers a surprising and brilliant moment of self mickey-taking, while the first meeting between Skylark and Kim will make you smile.
But for the most part this is the usual array of f-bombs, awkward gay jokes (“look at this buttfuck”) and frat slang that you know will appear more often in social media and online forms over the next few years (if you see the phrases ‘c*nt punt’ and ‘honeydicked’ online a lot more than you did before, now you know why).
I also can’t remember a film in which I’ve correctly predicted so many times what would happen next. Many of its set-pieces can be spotted a mile off, and I’m not the most inventive man in the world so I can only assume this is down to a lack of plot creativity.
One particular needlessly long scene involving a Siberian tiger couldn’t have been telegraphed more if the plot had been leaked a week earlier in The Daily Telegraph.
By all means give The Interview a watch if you’re looking for an entertaining enough comedy to pass the time. But if you’re caught up in the hype surrounding it and are expecting something obscene, offensive, outlandish and therefore hilarious then you’re going to be massively disappointed.
This is nothing more than a normal movie with an abnormal level of attention directed at it, most of which isn’t really warranted.
HOW CAN I SEE IT?
The Interview was released online last week but is currently only officially available on US video sites (I had to switch my Xbox to the US marketplace and perform some DNS trickery to be able to rent it). If you’re in the UK you may have to either sit tight and wait for news of a British release or, if you’re the sort who likes to dice with morality, search for a torrent. Sony stupidly released the digital version without any DRM so word has it it’s already been illegally downloaded millions of times.
Update – As of late January 2015 (i.e. around a month after its release), it’s now available on US Netflix.
SHOW ME THE TRAILER: