I know it’s perhaps odd to be posting a review on Christmas, but given the circumstances of the release of this film, I simply couldn’t ignore it.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple weeks, you’re already well aware of the new comedy The Interview, which features Seth Rogen and James Franco as two television figures tasked with assassinating North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. Unsurprisingly, the film’s content has not gone over well with the North Korean government, with the film's distributor, Sony, having been the victim of a vicious mass-hacking, and the so-called Guardians of Peace threatening any theaters playing the film with attacks the scale of 9/11 (a threat eventually deemed not credible), ultimately culminating in the film’s eventual cancellation…
…Or so we thought. By trying so hard to suppress this film from the public, these “Guardians of Peace” have instead stirred up the mother of all Streisand effects, generating more interest in the film than it would have possibly gotten if things had played out uninterrupted. The whole world wanted to see this movie. So, on December 23rd, Sony announced that it would be distributing the film to 200 independent theaters for screening, and not only that, but the following day allowed sites like YouTube and Google Play to rent and stream the film. With this, I happily decided to give it a go. It doesn’t live up to any of the hype that was built-up, but I laughed hard and had fun with it.
Whether or not you’re any fan of Rogen and Franco’s films like Pineapple Express or This is the End will tell you exactly if you’ll like this movie or not. It’s every bit as crude and unapologetically man-childish as any of their films before, and a hilarious continuation of their signature brand of humor. Plenty of their jokes miss just as much as they hit, and the film never takes full advantage of its international sensitivity subtext (this movie’s mere existence a matter of such sensitivity), but knows its targets, and hits them well. Admittedly, the film isn’t particularly notable for stellar writing, but in Rogen’s and co-director Evan Goldberg’s vision is very laid-back and playful, all eventually slipping into over the top action sequences in the same DNA as Pineapple Express.
The cast is ultimately the soul of this movie. Rogen and Franco have always made for a hysterical comedic duo, and are afforded some of their most close-knit chemistry ever. The two act as perfect foils to one another, playing up the bromance necessary to make these characters work, and in their most likely ad-libbed segments are a force of massive comic nature. They even work just as well separately, with Franco as an easily manipulated softy, and Rogen worrisome and constantly on his toes thinking of a plan.
Scene stealer notice goes to Randall Park as Kim Jong-Un. He’s fascinating and hysterical in that he’s painted as something of a Peter Pan ultimately thrust into a position of ultimate power, indulging in the same man-child stylistics as the characters of other Seth Rogen films, like when he bonds with Franco over Katy Perry and tanks that he looks at like giant toys. This childish nature is especially apparent in certain tantrums he throws, but is also a master of manipulation, and also occasionally waves the power he holds like an innocent plaything. No matter what the real Kim Jong-Un is like, what matters is that Park’s rendition is fantastic.
It doesn’t reach the highest heights of other, better Rogen films, but all picking apart of its overall quality aside, I’m so happy this film saw the light of day. You should be free to see this film whether or not its well received, and I hope it’ll do great business in the long run, if only to spite these hackers for trying to dictate the films we watch.
***1/2 / *****