For a while there, it looked like THE INTERVIEW was going to be the most famous movie never seen. But, thanks to the Internet, you can now watch it from the comfort of your living room sofa – either legally or illegally. (I expect that illegal DVD copies are already on sale in China.)
Unless you’ve been completely absorbed in other matters lately, you’re probably well aware that THE INTERVIEW, which stars James Franco and Seth Rogen, is about two TV personalities – one a sleazy TV talk show host and the other his producer – who land an interview with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and are asked by the CIA to “take him out”. I won’t get into discussing the hacking incident at Sony Pictures Entertainment or speculating whether or not North Korea really was behind it, but I will say that even as much as I am not a fan of the pudgy little dictator with the bad haircut, making a movie about a foreign-government sponsored assassination of a sitting leader, no matter how funny you can make the premise, is not something that I would endorse. I doubt all the Americans who were up in arms about freedom of speech when it looked like they wouldn’t be able to see this film would be so happy if the shoe were on the other foot. Well, maybe the people who still think President Obama is the anti-Christ would. But I said I wouldn’t discuss the politics of this film and I just did.
If you’re a post-pubescent boy, THE INTERVIEW is the kind of film you will howl at. It is rife with off-colour butt and sexual references, female eye candy, bitten off body parts and monster tank carnage. For the rest of us though, this film is just plain dumb. Sure, Franco and Rogen are pros at amping up the crazy, which is what barely keeps the story afloat, but there is not an ounce of intelligence or wit to be found in the script. I think they would have had a better film on their hands if the story would have been about a fictional leader from a fictional country. Think of Charlie Chaplin’s now landmark film, THE GREAT DICTATOR. We all knew that Adenoid Hynkel was Adolf Hitler and that Tomainia was Germany. Chaplin didn’t need to bop us over the head to see that comparison. Are audiences less worldly now than they were 74 years ago or are Hollywood writers just dumber? Certainly, the demographics of who goes to see movies these days means that films are targeted to younger audiences than they were back in Chaplin’s day but I’ll go out on a limb and say that Hollywood keeps churning out scripts that appeal to an ever lower common denominator.
If this is the shape of 21st century American political satire, woe is us. THE INTERVIEW is juvenile and shallow film that, thanks to the hack, will be watched and talked about for a long time to come. It’s a shame because this is a film that should best be forgotten.
Listen to the review online on Radio 4. (Click on the link. Select Part 2 and slide the time bar over to 30:40.)