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30 Dec 2014

Art of the Shart: 'The Interview' Is Not Political Satire—but It Offers Ample Lowbrow Humor

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James Franco and Seth Rogen in The Interview. James Franco and Seth Rogen in The Interview.

The once blacklisted The Interview is now available on YouTube, iTunes and Xbox while also playing in a limited amount of theaters (including a whopping three locally: the Camelot, the UltraStar Mary Pickford and the Cinémas Palme d’Or).

Did you ever really doubt you would get a chance to see it? Commerce always wins!

This film by directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, like Team America: World Police 10 years ago, plays like one of those impossibly strange—and undeniably funny—Warner Bros. propaganda cartoons that were in circulation during World War II. You know, the ones where the likes of Bugs Bunny would square off against Hitler. The major exception would be that these newer satirists say “motherfucker” a lot. 

This is touchy stuff, but Rogen and co-star James Franco are up to the task of pissing all over North Korea, the American media and the CIA. They don’t go after these institutions with contemplative, important, intellectual arguments; they attack with stink-dick and shit jokes.

As one should expect from political satire starring Rogen and Franco, The Interview obsesses over things like whether or not Kim Jong-un actually has a butthole. Mind you, the film does address real-world hot topics like nukes and people starving, but mainly, it is concerned about the whole “Kim Jong-un doesn’t have to pee or poo” thing.

Franco plays Dave Skylark, the flamboyant host of an American tabloid interview show who is notorious for stories such as Eminem admitting he’s gay, and Rob Lowe revealing his baldness. When Skylark discovers Kim Jong-un’s favorite TV shows are The Big Bang Theory and his program, he conspires with his producer (Rogen) to procure an interview with the world leader that will establish their legitimacy as real news guys. Their plans get mildly complicated when the CIA gets wind of the interview and insists upon the two killing the notoriously reclusive basketball fan.

Like this year’s Godzilla, The Interview’s monster doesn’t show up until about an hour into the film. Kim Jong-un, hilariously played by Randall Park, is a bashful Skylark fan who loves Katy Perry and margaritas. In what is surely a riff on the infamous Dennis Rodman-Kim Jong-un bromance, Skylark and Kim take an instant liking to each other. They play basketball, blow up parts of the countryside with tanks, and party all night long.

Of course, Jong-un has that bad side we all know about, so Park’s portrayal goes Jekyll-and-Hyde when the Supreme Leader starts threatening to nuke the world if it doesn’t recognize his superior strength. It’s in these moments that the Park performance becomes a tad more blustery.

Rogen is pretty much his usual self here—in other words, he’s one of filmdom’s most underrated comic actors, with impeccable timing and a steady stream of corrective, snarky retorts. Franco goes all-out childish here, with a high-pitched, appropriately sophomoric performance. His running account of a tiger attack on Rogen’s character is one of the film’s great highlights. Lizzy Caplan offers good supporting work as a CIA director who “honeypots” the two into the assassination scheme.

The final interview between Skylark and Jong-un is a comedic stew of tears, bullets, puppies, finger-biting and sharting. Park offers a Katy Perry-induced nervous breakdown for the ages; he should get some sort of award for Best Slow-Motion Death Scene, because what he does in his final moments is beyond epic.

Does the movie live up to all of the hype? I think so, but I am prone to laughter when it comes to good jokes about buttholes and stink-dicks. The Interview a silly, juvenile movie delivered by some goofy, mischievous guys. It is not some sort of patriotic manifesto intelligently taking a stand against North Korea. For that sort of movie, you must look elsewhere. This film is about the political ramifications of a world leader sharting on live TV. 

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