If we are going to start a nuclear war with North Korea, we should probably do it over a better-quality movie.
It’s hard not to love James Franco and Seth Rogan. Known for
their satirical and over-the-top humor in movies like This is the End and YouTube videos like the Bound II re-creation, they beg to not be taken seriously. So when North Korea
threatened nuclear war over their 2014 film The
Interview, naturally America was curious. Had the duo finally taken it too far?
Given the actors’ recurring, slapstick humor and continuation of the same act in various eccentric plots, I, and many of my fellow Americans, probably wouldn’t have rushed to theaters to see The Interview. However, Sony’s postponing of the movie’s release was probably the best thing that could have happened to the mediocre film. What
was in the film that had caused North Korea to (potentially) hack into Sony and
threaten the United States? Curious as ever, America wanted to find out.
There are two ways to watch The Interview. The first would be to take offense. This is not hard to do, as the film’s jokes are often not only stupid,
but demeaning. The second is to take it for what it is: gratuitous and
slapstick, but one big, ridiculous joke. I fluctuated between the two, shifting
from amused to bored to stunned as each disjointed scene moved to the next. I finally finished the movie with an overall feeling of uplifted indifference.
Beginning on set of their popular, gossipy, E! News-esque
television show Skylark, Dave Skylark (James Franco) and Aaron Rapaport (Seth
Rogan) set the tone for the film. Skylark is manic and goofy, verging on
unintelligent and complacent about life. Rapaport is the sensible one of the two
(which by no means makes him a sensible person), aspiring for bigger and better
We’ve seen this duo before: Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill in 21 Jump Street, Michael Cera and Jonah
Hill in Superbad and Zac Efron and Dave
Franco in Neighbors. It’s the ultimate pair of male
friends bumbling through life until one tries to break from their old ways.
But don’t worry, the film doesn’t waste time after meeting its quota of guest stars and Ellen DeGeneres references. Quickly we move
onto the real intrigue: the unrealistic (I promise I will use this word as
sparingly as possible, as it could be used to describe the entire movie) premise
that Kim Jong-un, the supreme leader of North Korea, would like to be
interviewed by Skylark.
We are then rushed through an unfortunately brief scene
with Agent Lacey (Lizzy Caplan—you won’t recognize her from her days as Janis
Ian in Mean Girls). Pleasingly
portrayed as quick-witted and powerful, Agent Lacey sends the blundering men on
an unintended mission. Their goal: the assassination of Kim Jong-un.
Surprisingly, Kim Jong-un (Randall Park) is a
largely enjoyable character. Park’s full commitment to the role (he gained 15
pounds and got a really bad haircut), along with his excellent acting, creates
an interesting persona for Kim.
Juxtaposed to his god-like presentation of himself, Kim Jong-un, we are led to
believe, is actually insecure and childlike. Whether this portrayal is an
analysis of Kim Jong-un as a ruler living through fear and uncertainty, or just
another way to make fun of him, is unclear. Maybe it’s a little bit of
seeing the film, it is perfectly clear that the real Kim Jong-un was unhappy
with his portrayal. After the censorship of all media to portray the dictator as invincible and
god-like, the threat of this sort of representation supposedly provoked the North Korean
government to promise violent retaliation if the movie were released.
Sony postposed the film’s release in theaters, rage sprang up in America in response to what was perceived as censorship. With freedom of speech in question,
conversations led to action. Independent theaters began playing the movie,
boosting its revenue as Americans flocked to the theaters like it was their
But despite the controversy and bigger political
implications, The Interview isn’t worth
more than half your attention on a boring Sunday night. Some jokes are better
than expected and some worse, but overall it is what it claims to be: a
satirical, slapstick comedy that takes things 10 steps too far whenever
possible. If this is your genre, you’ll love it. If not, you might want to
watch Zero Dark Thirty for a real
political controversy instead.
But hey, it’s free on Netflix. So don’t believe
me; just watch!
Sawyer Henshaw SC ’17 is an English Major from Hawaii. Believe it or not, the film columnist wasn’t allowed to watch R-rated movies until she was 17 years old.