As far as celebrity journalism goes, there's no one in the business better than Dave Skylark (James Franco), host of the incredibly popular Skylark Tonight. It's so popular in fact that Dave and his friend and producer, Aaron Rappaport (Seth Rogen), and the TV crew have just celebrated the show's 1,000th episode. Still, Aaron can't shake the thought that what they're doing has little to no journalistic integrity. It's only then that the duo finds out that Kim Jong-un (Randall Park), president/dictator/leader of North Korea, is a huge fan of the show. Somehow, some way, Aaron manages to arrange an interview, albeit one in North Korea at un's palace. There's a catch though. Before Dave and Aaron head to North Korea, they're approached by the CIA with a slight favor. The Central Intelligence Agency has developed a plan to kill Kim Jong-un, and they need Dave and Aaron to pull the job off. Simple, right?
Rogen and friend and frequent collaborator Evan Goldberg wrote this movie in the late 2000's and updated it when Kim Jong-il died in 2011. From there...well stuff happened. There's a ton of drama that happened getting this movie made to the point it was never released in theaters because of hackers and all sorts of international intrigue. I'm not gonna waste my breath and explore that so read about it HERE if you're interested.
The end result? What's the final verdict? It's a mess of a movie, mostly entertaining but I feel like there's a better movie somewhere in the ingredients. I debated even reviewing it because I'm still wrapping my head around exactly what I just watched. Rogen and Goldberg co-wrote and co-directed this horrifically dark, downright stupid at times comedy, and it's got a lot of their familiar touches, most of them pretty good. The weirdest part is that they took this potentially brilliant idea of dark comedy -- killing a world leader -- and dumb it down with lots of bathroom humor (A LOT of it) and generally stupid laughs. What I'm still debating is this...is it a truly brilliant movie? It's so freaking bizarre basically from the get-go that I can't really decide. It's a mess, but it is a beautiful mess. I can say that comfortably.
What I do know is this; even when the laughs are so stupidly dumb you have to shake your head, Seth Rogen and James Franco commit and go for those laughs. They're perfect together, a result of a longtime friendship that's seen the duo work together in more than a handful of movies. Some scenes you just get the sense they're improvising the entire thing, just two buddies screwing around seeing who can come up with the better line. Franco's Dave is so incredibly dumb and naive at times that he's a demented charmer. Rogen's Aaron is the straight man, but he gets more than his fair share of laughs. Even when the material resorts too much toward the bathroom variety, I couldn't help but laugh at times because these two goofballs just go for it and swing for the fences in terms of laughs.
The real scene-stealer though is Randall Park as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. How do you play one of the most controversial world leaders currently living in power? Like THIS. Oh, my goodness, this part is hysterical. Sure, he's evil but that doesn't mean you can't have fun with it, right? Park's Randall struggles with confidence issues, is like a fangirl around Dave, struggles to embrace his love of margaritas and Katy Perry (he questions if he's gay), and generally is just trying to find himself in this crazy, mixed-up world. If Park just played Jong-un as a lunatic, dark and maniacal, it would not have worked this well. He steals every scene he's in. Also look for Lizzy Caplan as Agent Lacey, the CIA point agent working with Dave and Aaron, and Diana Bang as Sook, Jong-un's minister of propaganda who will preside over the interview that will air live on TV around the world.
I thought the movie was at its strongest in the first hour. It's a good mix of smart and dumb, treading that fine line. Things fall apart some in the second half as our boys have to improvise in their assassination attempt. Here comes the bathroom humor (quite literally) and some surprisingly graphic violence and some of it all mixed together for good measure. The finale does have some surprises up its sleeve, but it almost lost me getting there.
So yeah, I'm not sure. Maybe a second viewing sometime down the line will help me cement my feelings about the movie more. For now, there were parts I loved and parts I hated. Taking it all in, there's just enough to give a decent recommendation. Just be forewarned. This movie is something else. That's the best I've got. It's truly something else.
The Interview (2014): ** 1/2 /****