With its release abruptly cancelled amid a hacking controversy, “The Interview” became perhaps the most polarizing movie of the crowded holiday film season. Sadly, the tale of the film’s release is more compelling than the actual plot.

The Interview

State Theatre and Quality 16
Columbia Pictures

Of course, longtime writing and directing partners Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (“This is the End”) didn’t set out to tell a heart-wrenching story, but rather to simply make people laugh, and give a big middle finger to Kim Jong-un.

“The Interview” opens strongly with Dave Skylark (James Franco, “127 Hours”), famous celebrity-interviewer, and his producer, Aaron Rapoport (Rogen), during an interview with rapper Eminem, resulting in the funniest scene of the entire film. Soon, it’s revealed that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is a big fan of Skylark, and requests that Skylark come to North Korea to interview the supreme leader for the exclusive of a lifetime. Seizing the opportunity to strike a vulnerable enemy, the CIA intervenes and assigns Skylark and Rapoport the mission of assassinating Jong-un which they accept. However, when the pair arrives in the enigmatic country, they find that things aren’t what they expected. They have doubts about the integrity of the mission, and their plain bone-headedness jeopardizes the entire operation.

Given the hullabaloo surrounding the film, one would expect “The Interview” to incite more anti-North Korean sentiment than it does. While Kim Jong-un is certainly the bad guy, the plot goes to significant lengths to humanize him and even generate some sympathy for his position — pressure from his father, insecurity in his masculinity, etc. During the climactic interview, Jong-un’s own dialogue even flips the script on audiences, as he recites facts that call the U.S.’s moral superiority into question.

Aside from the political tones of the film, “The Interview” means to garner laughs, which it does only mildly. In this regard, the film falls short of most of Rogen and Goldberg’s previous efforts, such as “Pineapple Express” (Rogen and Franco’s first film together as co-stars) and “Superbad.” Particularly unfunny is Franco, whose character’s humor stems from his stupidity and relies on dick jokes and ambiguously gay puns. The funniest sequences of the film come from minor roles — the aforementioned Eminem interview and a short scene with Anders Holm (Ders from “Workaholics”), who belittles Rogen about the type of “news” he produces.

Ultimately, “The Interview” proves more silly than serious, an escapist comedic fantasy that incorporates elements of real geo-political conditions, rather than a dramatic epic that incorporates comedy. Only someone as oppressive as Kim Jong-un could view this film as a threat. The most interesting legacy of “The Interview” might be its reception among the few North Koreans who get a hold of a copy, though Western society will likely never know if that reception is favorable.

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