Christmas Day, thousands of Americans filled theaters to see a Japanese corporation’s movie by a Canadian director mocking the dictator of North Korea. All in the name of freedom — and rude, raw laughs.
And if we’ve learned nothing from the international incident titled “The Interview,” it’s that Kim Jong-un has good reason to fear this stupider-than-stupid comedy. However broad the rest of the movie might be, it’s not the movie assassination plot against Kim that would give North Koreans ideas. It’s the ridicule of their “god-like leader.”
Randall Park’s interpretation of Kim is dark, and darkly funny, a delusional turn with wincing, believable bits of psychoanalysis. Whatever else co-directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, working from a story they dreamed up (Dan Sterling wrote the script), present here — it’s the “common sense” depiction of an overgrown, insecure boy in a bubble who insists the world notice him that sticks.
James Franco may not seem real as Dave Skylark, an idiot TV chat show host, and he goes out of his way to amp up the wacky to make Dave as broad as possible. Rogen’s TV producer, Aaron, may show signs that he worries that he’s smarter than his boss, the host — but not smart enough to do “real journalism.”
But Park’s Kim is a stereotypical hoot, a foul-mouthed Margarita lover who keeps Katy Perry CDs in his favorite tank, a roly poly paranoid who knows everybody around him, in his “compound,” in his country and in the world, is out to get him. A dictator with Daddy Issues, who loves “The Big Bang Theory” and “The Dave Skylark Show”? We can buy that.
“You so FUNNY, Dave!”
That fandom is what gives fluff-interviewer Dave the idea to get “the most famous guy on the planet,” and also “the most dangerous,” on his show. Aaron is stunned when the interview is set up, more stunned when the C.I.A. (Lizzy Caplan) wants him and Dave to poison “The Supreme Leader” and rid the world of a tyrant with nuclear-equipped missiles that could wipe out the west coast of the United States.
Naturally, the plan goes awry when Dave starts improvising around it, and finds himself out of his depth and utterly himself charmed by their host. Aaron falling for their North Korean minder, the sexy public relations chief named Sook (Diana Bang), doesn’t help.
Some standard-issue Rogen gags — hilarious celeb cameos (Eminem, playing it straight, and Rob Lowe), the bluer-than-blue language used by one and all, his matter-of-fat-fact nudity, drug jokes — work. Skylark’s incessant “Lord of the Rings” analogies don’t, and you have to let Franco’s performance grow on you. It’s off-puttingly bad for much of the film. Then, he answers his critics with a catch-phrase for the ages.
“They hate us, cuz they AIN’T us!”
There’s also sharp and snide commentary on U.S. meddling with other countries and C.I.A. screwups mixed in with real world North Korean shortcomings (millions starve so this or that “Dear Leader” can make the world tremble at his tantrums).
“Interview” is never much more than a cult film, a Kevin Smith comedy as directed by Quentin Tarantino, or vice versa, a quirky oddity. But Dear Leader made it such an issue that seeing it is borderline patriotic.
Still, I’m guessing any plans Rogen has for a comedy mocking, say, The Prophet Muhammad, are going on the shelf. This was a costly victory that only becomes a complete victory when Anonymous loads the film onto every computer in the People’s Republic.
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language, crude and sexual humor, nudity, some drug use and bloody violence
Cast: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Diana Bang, Randall Park, Lizzy Caplan
Credits: Directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, screenplay by Dan Sterling. A Sony release.
Running time: 1:50