“The Interview”: Controversial for Different Reasons

I’m not sure which is dumber: Kim Jong-un or “The Interview.” I am completely flabbergasted as to how a movie manages to be offensive to both Kim Jong-un and those who see him and his legacy as a monument to falsehoods, ostracization, and death. The film was advertised as if Kim Jong-un would be the brunt of the jokes, but for most of the movie he is depicted as a spoiled kid who harbors deep-seeded troubles from his past. A movie has failed when it makes the protagonist, played by James Franco, far less likable than the antagonist.

James Franco plays the eccentric Dave Skylark, the host of “Skylark Tonight,” which is a show that involves one-on-one interviews with celebrities in order to cash in on sensitive aspects of their lives. Seth Rogen, the second lead, plays producer Aaron Rapoport, who is the only rational and somewhat funny character throughout the movie.

Franco’s character can be summed up as an unprincipled, puerile buffoon. His character gives me a glimpse into what it would be like if Dane Cook pulled my teeth without anesthesia. While his expertise is in tabloid and celebrity news, he should have some basic understanding of the violations of human rights in North Korea, but his character is willfully ignorant. Even with Seth Rogen’s character explaining how the North Korean government treats its citizens, Skylark remains incredulous or simply indifferent to their suffering.

Early on, after discovering Kim Jong-un is a fan of the show, Rapoport is contemplating the ethical implications of conducting an interview with Kim or not. Since the terms of the interview means Kim Jong-un would dictate the questions, it would essentially be propaganda through a Western outlet. Skylark can’t be bothered to have the conversation. He instead pops ecstasy with Rapoport in order to reach the next scene via a “Hangover” segue.

At this point, we’re 20 minutes into the movie, and Skylark hasn’t said anything funny. Instead, he talks about his crotch smelling weird before being asked by the CIA to poison Kim Jong-un with ricin to topple the Kim dynasty. This conversation is dominated by Skylark’s “jokes,” and we begin to learn the characters’ motivations. Skylark wants fame, Rapoport believes the interview will free the people of North Korea. Sorry, are we supposed to like Skylark? Are we not supposed to be rooting for his untimely demise?

After the 30 minute mark, the rest of the movie boils down to hijinks in North Korea caused by Skylark’s stupidity and vanity. Worse yet, every time Skylark screws up, Rapoport is forced to pay the price. He gets attacked by a tiger, has a metal probe covered in tiger blood stuck up his anus, gets his fingers bit off, gets shot, etc. Skylark pals around with Kim Jong-un while having a blast, but then later gets shot once while wearing a bullet proof vest. If the world were just, he should have ended up in a hard labor camp with Kim. One hour into the movie and Skylark still hasn’t said anything funny, and he’s still acting as a Kim apologist. Defending totalitarianism has never been so cool.

Skylark’s character arc finally inches toward growth when he discovers fake fruit and directly hears Kim threaten to kill millions of people to retain his rule. With 40 minutes left in the film, the protagonist had to have the antagonist spell out why he’s the antagonist. So, it’s definitively proven in the beginning of the third act that our protagonist is, as I said before, an unprincipled, puerile buffoon.

I won’t entirely spoil the end, but democracy is achieved in North Korea by painting Kim Jong-un as someone who bumbles around incompetently on live television (if the North Koreans control the broadcast, and they rely on propaganda to retain power, then why are they doing it live?) before gaining his footing and scapegoats The United States.

After six decades, North Korea has been engaged in propaganda to the point where it speaks anti-American sentiments in its sleep, and it even has dedicated divisions to study and adopt other cultures’ writing styles in order to spread propaganda under the guise of non-North Korean writers, so how, exactly, is Kim Jong-un suddenly rhetorically sweating over such common indictments levied against his nation? Skylark is an incredibly stupid character, and for the plot to reach its climax and conclude, Kim Jong-un and most North Koreans were forced by the writers to lose half of their brain cells in order to be outsmarted by Skylark.

If you don’t like to laugh, then I recommend “The Interview.” If you want to be offended by characters in a movie, then I recommend “The Interview.” If you want to use a movie as a vehicle for poor comedy and poor political commentary at the expense of the real problems of North Korea, then I recommend you go back in time in order to beat this movie to the punch.

(Submitted by guest contributor Andrew Nessler)