For those of us who didn't have their confidential information leaked as part of the Sony Pictures hack, the unplanned VOD release of The Interview worked out just about perfectly. The latest collaboration between the film's stars Seth Rogen and James Franco, along with Rogen pal and, here, co-director Evan Goldberg, is the kind of mildly funny comedy meant to be half-ignored while you mess around with your iPad on the couch.
That we all got to do exactly that after the bizarre, stop-start circumstances that nearly scuttled the film entirely is some sort of Christmas miracle -- the perfect Holiday evening for the slacktivist in all of us who wants to stand up for free speech, but wasn't too excited about leaving the house and paying $10-plus at the theater for the privilege.
Is The Interview worth all the fuss? Yes, but only because even silly, superfluous, eminently forgettable pieces of art are worth standing up for. Is it a particularly good film? Nope.
It does have its moments. Rogen's usual gruff, vulgar charm is present in the character he plays, Aaron Rapaport, the producer of a soft-news celebrity interview show. He typically plays happy-go-lucky gents who slowly realize they want a bit more out of life, and Rapaport is a less-stoned, more successful iteration of that archetype. Franco, Rogen's frequent counterpart, isn't usually as easy to like -- self-satisfied smarm seems to bubble up through his pores with regularity -- and his Dave Skylark, the host of the show Rapaport produces, is also no departure.
As you no doubt know, the pair scores an interview with mysterious North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (Randall Park) and are on track for the kind of harder-hitting journalism Rogen’s character is after until both the CIA and Kim’s regime intervene. The CIA, represented by Lizzy Caplan’s Agent Lacey, asks Skylark to assassinate Kim, a task to which Dave and Aaron reluctantly agree. Kim’s handlers, meanwhile, conspire to hew closely to a script that is favorable to their Dear Leader.
The wild card in all of this is Kim himself who is revealed to be a lonely, margarita-sipping weirdo — the kind of guy who drives a vintage Soviet tank while listening to Katy Perry’s “Firework.” (Seriously.)
Based on my limited knowledge of the real North Korea and its leader, this comedic form of armchair psychology actually seems quite on point. Kim Jong-Un would seem to be a crazy weirdo who is disconnected from a reality he can share with pretty much everyone else on the planet. In that vein, it’s easy to imagine him as someone who is both wickedly ruthless and desperate for approval as Park’s version of Kim is.
The problem is that this either isn’t that funny of a conceit, or it is and Rogen and Goldberg couldn’t mine it properly. It almost feels like all of the homework went in to crafting a semi-believable version of Kim, and attention to, y’know, the actual jokes wasn’t given its proper due as a result. This crew is better than that as we have learned over the years.
Caplan’s talents are wasted. Rogen and Franco don’t seem all that committed to what they are doing. As a result, The Interview winds up as near-perfect save-it-for-a-rental fodder. What a freakish bit of unprecedented history that that wound up being the only way most of us could see it.