We’ll get back to that, but before discussing The Interview as a film, it’s impossible to ignore the unprecedented uproar surrounding its release. Sony pulled the film from its Christmas Day release after hackers produced “evidence” that North Korea was ready to literally go to war over the film. After a freedom-of-speech backlash in the States, Sony did an about-face and didn’t just release The Interview: it saturated the world with the film. It’s in theaters and available via nearly any online video provider you can name. It’s already Sony’s top online film ever. But is it any good? I can honestly say that I laughed more during The Interview than I have in the past four months combined. It’s absurdist, incendiary political satire of an unprecedented nature that’s not only a subversively gleeful mockery of the world’s most secretive nation and the funniest comedy of 2014.
The plot of the film has been laid out in the trailers: a jokey talk show host (James Franco) and his best friend producer (Seth Rogen), have carved out success in the lowest common denominator, but Rogen longs to do serious news pieces and get back to hard journalism. Quite coincidentally, the host, Dave Skylark, is contacted by North Korean dictator King Jon-Un, who professes to be one of his greatest fans and invites the host to Pyongyang for an unprecedented interview. At the same time, the CIA corners the duo, extremely interested in having them assassinate said leader during their visit. From there it’s off to North Korea and the amount of mayhem that ensues is literally indescribable mayhem. I honeydick you not.
The script is much tighter than last year’s This is the End or The Pineapple Express, previous ventures which have paired the real-life friends Rogen & Franco. I wasn’t a fan of Pineapple Express and there are images in This is the End that I’ll never scrub out of the corners of my brain. In the past, their films have felt mostly improvised, but the script this time is clever, political, crass, hysterical and incredibly politically incendiary. Imagine a comedy made in 1980 where Dan Akroyd and John Belushi travel to Moscow, overthrow the Soviet Union and kill Mikhail Gorbachev. THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS IN THIS FILM!
In-between a hysterical opening interview with Eminem to leaving North Korea in smoking civil war, Franco and Rogen will face tigers, Ricin poisoning, and other dangers. The glue that makes the film work is the genuine friendship that you can sense between the two stars, and unlike their previous efforts, this film was tightly scripted and had dozens of one-liners that I won’t be able to ever repeat in mixed company. All of this madness combines to make 2014’s meager comedy offerings seem pale in comparison.
Nitpicks: The film runs a little long and the back half is not nearly as strong as the first. There’s unnecessary and uncalled for gore and violence that seem randomly inserted into the film. I would have also listed having to listen to Katy Perry sing “Fireworks” several times during the film as one of my nitpicks, but the song is such a hugely funny joke that I almost want to download it….almost.
More than just a film, The Interview could enact real change. Nothing brings down tyranny like a tide of laughter. Despite the PRK’s best efforts, the film will be seen. It will be seen by their allies, it will reinforce the plight of the people of North Korea and the literally absurd circumstances by which a 31-year-old man/child can starve his people and hold the world hostage with his tantrums. Against the tide of laughter, nothing can stand, and that may be a hilarious film’s most lasting serious legacy.