Rating: 8.5 out of 10
James Franco as Dave Skylark
Seth Rogen as Aaron Rapaport
Lizzy Caplan as Agent Lacey
Randall Park as Kim Jung-Un
Diana Bang as Sook
Timothy Simons as Malcolm
Reese Alexander as Agent Botwin
James Yi as Officer Koh
Paul Bae as Officer Yu
Geoff Gustafson as Cole
Anesha Bailey as Janet
Anders Holm as Jake
Charles Rahi Chun as General Jong
Directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg
Dave Skylark (James Franco) is one of the top celebrity interviewers with a show that’s run for ten years, thanks to his producer and friend Aaron (Seth Rogen). When they learn that North Korean dictator Kim Jung-Un is a fan of the show, they reach out to see if the leader would let Dave interview him. When they score an exclusive one-hour interview, they’re contacted by a CIA agent (Lizzy Caplan) requesting that they use opportunity to assassinate the country’s Supreme Leader.
The first time I saw the trailer for the latest comedy from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg–becoming quite prolific in creating their own comedy legacy going back to “Superbad”–my first instinct was, “Who on earth thought it would be a good idea to make this movie?” Granted, the idea probably came out of the infamous trips to North Korea by basketball player Dennis Rodman around the same time that the country’s leader Kim Jong-un was showing off the fact he had nuclear weapons.
As Americans, we’ve been painted a very specific picture of the 31-year-old Communist leader of one of the country’s most outspoken enemies and there really shouldn’t be anything funny about someone who potentially wants to destroy everyone of us. And yet, Rogen and Goldberg not only find the humor in said situation but exploit it into what could be one of their funniest movies since “Superbad.”
After an opening sequence of a sweet little girl singing to launch a nuclear warhead, presumably headed towards America, it’s blatantly obvious this movie is all about James Franco, playing his funniest character since last year’s rapper Alien in “Spring Breakers.” Franco could have just played Dave as being dumb and insensitive, a typical television personality who is more about being popular than being a credible journalist. It’s a funny role on its own, but Franco brings another level of his acting ability to the role, delivering every line, regardless of how funny or serious it’s meant, with just the right look that gets you laughing. Those looks and his garish attire–at one point wearing a purple suit that could easily have come off the rack of The Joker…and we’re talking about the ‘60s Cesar Romero one here–really enhance the character and it’s what drives the laughs throughout.
Korean-American comic Randall Park, best known for his role on HBO’s “Veep” but who has appeared in so many comedies this year in innocuous and forgettable roles, knocks one out of the park (ha ha) with his depiction of Kim Jung-Un, showing a wide range of emotions. When we meet Kim, he’s an excitable and shy fanboy, just happy to meet Dave, but we soon learn how much he’s relishing all that money, power and fame on the level of a Tony Stark. It’s quite a breakthrough for Park, who is getting his own television show in the new year.
Granted, if you have thick skin–and for the sake of argument, we’re going to assume that the real Kim Jong-un doesn’t–then it’s the type of razzing that U.S. presidents are used to shaking off from “Saturday Night Live’s” weekly jabs, just given more weight by the reality of the situation, that someone claiming to be his country’s “Supreme Leader” might not want to be thought of as vulnerable as he’s often depicted for the sake of comedy.
While Franco and Park are standouts, Diana Bang is equally as amazing as Kim’s communications officer Sook, on whom Aaron develops a little crush. She’s tough but also shows a softer side, feeling remorse for her part in Kim’s iron rule. Lizzy Caplan is also given a plum role that allows her to show her range as she manipulates Dave into doing the CIA’s bidding.
That basically leaves Seth Rogen as the straight man in his own comedy, which is probably fine after providing so many laughs in other movies. If you’re a fan of his usual thing (as I am) you’ll enjoy his delivery just fine, but it doesn’t seem he’s given himself as much room to ad lib while playing a character whose sole job is to move the story forward. Even Aaron’s very real desire to be taken seriously as a journalist often takes a backseat to Franco’s antics.
It’s good to note that while Rogen and Goldberg came up with the story and directed the movie, they didn’t actually write the screenplay, which falls to Dan Sterling, a TV vet from “The Office,” “The Daily Show” and “Girls.” Sterling brings a freshness to what Rogen and Goldberg normally do, adding some much-needed socio-political bite, but he doesn’t veer too far from their usual formula to make it off-putting for those who may not care much about world affairs.
We won’t go into too much detail about how the CIA plan goes wrong due to the bungling of Aaron and Dave with some moments being funnier than others, but it leads up to an all-out slam-bang “let’s get out of here” finale with the type of action and gory violence we’ve gotten used to seeing in Quentin Tarantino’s movies. If you enjoyed the climactic shoot-outs in movies like “Inglourious Basterds” and “Django Unchained,” then you’ll enjoy where “The Interview” goes in the same way.
The Bottom Line:
The premise might seem slightly wonky, but the results are absolutely hilarious, especially Franco and Park who effortlessly steal the movie. Even so, this movie is probably going to get us nuked.