If there was an Oscar for Publicist of the Year, Kim Jong-un certainly deserves it for the record-breaking free publicity he garnered for The Interview – which also turned out to be a surprisingly clever and witty Seth Rogen/James Franco outing. (The film did win the Maxwell Weinberg Publicists Showmanship Motion Picture Award.) Since you can see it on free and pay TV, DVD, download it from the Internet and hear it on the Sirius channel “Stupidity,” any spoilers here won't spoil much of anything. Besides, the fun is the journey, not the plot. The story is about a TV tabloid producer, Aaron Rappaport (Rogen) and his host and star, Dave Skylark (Franco). Their show's gimmick is big star guests and shock humor that panders to the Jerry Springer demographic. That's what attracted me to it. The opening scene shows Franco interviewing Eminem about “elder hate.”
Like NBA superstar Dennis Rodman (the player covered by tattoos and a body loaded with medal attachments), North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is such a fan, he invites them to Pyongyang for an exclusive interview. They decide to do it, but discussions are interrupted by more mundane business. Someone has a video of Matthew McConaughey having sex with a goat that they must show.
The next day, following a typical Rogen-Franco boozy blowout celebrating their 1,000th show, Lizzy Caplan, as one of the cutest CIA recruiters ever, disturbs their hangovers to enlist them to assassinate North Korea's Dear Leader. The boys' judgment is still sufficiently alcohol-impaired to agree, and they go into intense training to prepare for the secret mission. In bootcamp, they follow the well-worn path of espionage comedies like Spies Like Us and Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion, blundering and botching their way through basic spy training.
Then it's off to Pyongyang where, like Dennis Rodman, one of the pair befriends Dear Leader and things seem to be off to a good start until Rogen looses the ricin strip that was going to be used assassinate KJU. The plan untangles from there. Not all the comedy works, and, since it's a Rogan and Franco operation, there's the requisite number of potty-mouth jokes for the 13 year-old boy demographic. They gain an ally in the form of KJU's assistant Sook, who persuades them for the good of the North Koreans people, their TV interview must reveal the real KJU; not the KJU who's been showing them Potemkin Villages, letting them play with his military toys, and wining and dining them – See! No famine here!
Things heat up to a boil at the studio as Skylark goes off KJU's script, and Rappaport fights in the control room to keep the show on the air. KJU finally gets confessional and teary about his Dear Leader Dad, starting fights among the Korean solders who can't believe their Dear Leader just “shart” his pants on TV. Sook spirits them out of the studio. It seems clear the mission has failed, but in a final slapstick, shoot-em-up finale in KJU's own nuclear armaments playground, it's mission accomplished and the boys head for home.
The Interview was filmed in NYC and Vancouver, Canada – they never even come close to North Korea. After the film's plot leaked early on, as you undoubtedly know, there was a computer hack inside the Sony Studios computers.
Embarrassing material was revealed, that led to more free publicity and Al Sharpton getting a job at the studio. The hack and the subsequent publicity are as entertaining as the movie itself – possibly more. And who knows, maybe there's The Interview II in the works, where the boys travel to Syria for a yuk-fest with ISIS' self-proclaimed Emir Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
The Interview is available in all kinds of formats and doesn't take any take effort to find. You can even stream it online free if you don't mind a blizzard of popups, but check those sites first with Google's SafeBrowsing function. Just type “google safebrowsing” and the sitename into the search bar. Firefox already incorporates Google Safebrowsing.
Rated 2.0 out of 4.0 reasons that while it was a big Christmas release, no Oscars came its way.