When I saw Seth Rogen and James Franco’s comedy, The Interview, back on December 10th, I never imagined it would become the center of corporate take down. It’s a simple premise – two clueless jerks are fish out of water in a foreign country. They’re tasked by the CIA to “take down” a dictator. What could be easier than that for a Christmas release?
The only thing that the writers (Rogen and Evan Goldberg, based on a script by Dan Sterling) didn’t count on was the actual real life dictator really being upset about the way he was depicted. Maybe Kim Jong Un seemed very distant to them. No doubt they discussed the South Park parody, Team America. Kim’s late dad, Kim Jong Il, was ruthlessly lampooned. No one said “boo” about that film. But of course, he wasn’t assassinated.
Spoiler alert if you don’t know already: in The Interview, Kim Jong-un is ultimately killed. He’s blown up in a helicopter while Katy Perry’s “Firework,” his favorite song, plays one last tribute to the by then much-ridiculed leader.
It’s too bad because Randall Park, who plays Kim, is a riot throughout. Here’s the setup: Franco is Dave Skylark, a blow-dried nitwit with an “Access Hollywood” type show. Rogen is Aaron, his producer who used to be a serious news guy. Somehow, Kim Jong Un, whom they’ve never really heard of, has seen their show and wants Dave to come to Pyongyang and interview him.
Enter the CIA in the person of the wonderful Lizzy Caplan from Masters of Sex as Agent Lacey. She wants the boys to “take out” Kim. They think this means, take out, as in: to dinner. Lacey gives them some poison on a strip. If they shake hands with Kim, the poison will be ingested and they’ll have 12 hours to get out of Korea. Easy peasy.
Of course, these two idiots immediately botch the job and lose the poison. This requires a second batch to be sent in a canister, which Rogen must then hide in his derriere, so to speak. This is one of countless gross out jokes that feel recycled from a number of Judd Apatow or Adam Sandler movies. This is not a Woody Allen or Mel Brooks movie.
Who knows what the North Koreans have actually seen of The Interview? Their fearless leader secretly loves Katy Perry music and puppies. He flirts bromantically with Franco to a creepy homoerotic extent (although to be fair, Franco does that with Rogen, too). There’s a semi-orgy scene with young lovelies that’s way tempered down from the original script. Kim Jong-un is basically played as a fool, even as he’s performing mind control on Dave Skylark.
Politics come in to play on a very basic level. Much is made of Koreans rumored to be starving to death. Kim Jong-un points out to Dave and Aaron all the wonderful supermarkets they pass in town. Later it’s revealed that the markets are fake, the glistening fruit is all plastic or made of wood. The Communists even put a fat kid out front of one, chomping on an ice cream cone, to show a happy, well fed population.
Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, Abbott and Costello, even Woody in “Bananas”—there is a lot of precedent for The Interview. The difference of course is that the places those bumblers were sent were fictitious. The only time a real dictator has been assassinated in a film, let alone a comedy, was Hitler in Inglorious Basterds. But Hitler was already dead for over 60 years. There was no one who would object.
But The Interview is what it is. Sony is stuck with it. They say they’re not releasing it in any form. But that’s for now. In six months it’s likely a DVD will be issued once the situation has cooled off. Everyone will wonder what the fuss was. Then again, Kim Jong-un is never going to laugh at jokes about his “pooping” or lack thereof. And he may take umbrage at the Katy Perry association. He always seemed more like a Taylor Swift fan.
Roger Friedman is editor of Showbiz411.com
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