It’s absurd to think how much controversy has surrounded a film where the terms honeypotting/honeydicking are used so much they are practically plot devices. Up until a week ago, this film was going to be a nice hard-R comedy alternative for the Christmas audiences. Then last week all hell broke loose. I don’t need to recap the whole thing in great detail for you, threats were made. Sony pulled the release after theater chains did, people were outraged about it, Sony put the film back in independent chains and VOD, then those same people who defended the film were suddenly calling the whole thing a mass scheme, some people just can’t be pleased. Listen if somebody at Sony planned this whole thing then they deserve a raise, it was one of the most brilliant marketing strategies I’ve seen in my life. It suddenly transformed from a film Sony wanted you to see to a film that Sony dared you to see. You could claim quasi-patriotism from watching it. One of my friends remarked to me during all this that we were witnessing film history, and he was right. The Interview hadn’t been released and it had already made its mark on film history.
Any movie depicting the assassination of a current dictator was always going to experience a certain amount of backlash and notoriety. But did a film where one of the biggest moments of do-or-die suspense comes from a guy shitting himself deserve it? And during the whole debacle nobody was really asking the important question: Is this movie actually any good?
Thankfully, the film is actually quite good and largely succeeds on the terms it sets for itself. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg show significant growth as filmmakers both in the look of the film as well as the construction of its most insane sequences. One of the most delightfully and violently absurb scenes I’ve seen this year comes in a fight scene in the third act, and the technique of it as well as other sequences feels more ambitious than you would expect from a movie like this. They even allow a few sobering moments of gravity to sink in, such as when Aaron and Dave realize that they are actually going to kill someone and what the ramifications of that are. Most modern comedies just throw as many dick jokes at the wall as they can hoping some will stick, but Rogen and Goldberg have an admirable tact and skill with how they craft their foul humor. When a guy shits himself like I mentioned before, it’s not funny because a guy has just shit himself, but because it serves as a punchline to a running joke throughout the film. Consistently underappreciated cinematographer Brandon Trost has the unenviable task of adding a layer of gravity to the comic insanity on display, but pulls it off while making the picture feel more grandiose and expensive than it would otherwise.
Rogen and James Franco continue to have a lived in comic chemistry together as TV talk show host Dave Skylark (Franco) and his producer/best friend Aaron Rapaport (Rogen). Rogen largely plays the straight man for Franco’s insane performance to bounce off of. This isn’t a new dynamic between the two, but it’s a winning one. Randall Park plays Kim Jong-un, and gets plenty of great comedic moments to himself while he and Dave bond over the fact that they both had over-demanding fathers.
There are problems with the film to be had when you start to pick at it. Can you claim racism with the depiction of some of the North Korean characters? Sure. Could it have been more insightful and skillfully satirical? Sure. It could have done things differently, but it would have been a film that compromised its own vision. I’d rather have a bold misstep than any timid attempt at political correctness. Be honest with yourself, would you want a film depicting the assassination of Kim Jong-un to feel safe?