Dave Skylark is not a serious journalist. He doesn't even play one on TV.
He's the host of a talk show that specializes in celebrity sensationalism … and just so happens to be North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un's favorite guilty pleasure.
So why not make it a win-win by lining up the interview of the decade? Dave and his prized producer, Aaron Rapaport, set off for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to get some face time with the man most folks in the world think of as a crazed and reclusive dictator.
But before they can get on a plane, the CIA shows up and tells them that they must do more than just talk with Kim. They must kill him. For the good of their country. For the good of the world. And so the not-so-serious journalists become not-so-serious government agents, armed with only some small poison strips and their own wicked wit. (And I do mean wicked.)
"Do you know what's more destructive than a nuclear bomb?" the onscreen President Kim asks Dave. His answer is "Words." Should it have instead been "Movies"? Read on and decide for yourself. Because isn't that the democratic way to do it, after all?
Dave and Aaron set out to serve their country by doing what the CIA tells them to. And at least they're good friends, and they work through their various weirdnesses to firmly stand by each other when the going gets gooey.
Using (often silly) satire, the movie makes the point that ruthless dictators serve only themselves and never their people. It tells us that starving a country's population so you can have more nuclear bombs is utterly reprehensible.
Part of the plot hinges on the idea that the North Korean people worship Kim like a god. Dave's solution? Show them that the man isn't even close to divine by making him cry on live TV.
Aaron is stripped of his clothing by North Korean guards, whereupon he gyrates his hips, assailing them with his flapping anatomy—which they see and we don't. We do get images of him covering himself with his hands. A long (verbally rendered) sequence involves him hiding a canister of poison in his backside.
Kim's harem (of sorts) shows up wearing just lingerie, with some of the women going topless. (There's brief breast nudity.) Two of them kiss while playing spin the bottle, as do Dave and President Kim. Aaron has sex with a North Korean woman, and we see rapid and explicit motions along with partial nudity.
A female CIA agent gets overtly ogled (by the guys and the script). We hear randy references to erections, then see them twice (through pants and underwear). There's talk about "camel toes," sexual habits, masturbation, manual stimulation and (gay) porn (the latter in quite explicit terms). Much is made of rapper Eminem coming out as gay.
We hear gags about homosexual sex and rape (with the word anus getting tossed around repeatedly in a "sexually comic" way). Bestiality is also thrown into the "laugh" mix when Dave and Aaron drool over about covering a story about Matthew McConaughey and a goat. Skylark talks about having sex with his professor. We hear about Nicki Minaj's exposed "vagina." One of the guys brags about sleeping with more women than Ellen DeGeneres.
Poison causes gross bodily expulsions and convulsions. Before the scene's over, we've also seen blood and gore coat everyone nearby as a bullet blows open a head. Later, in slow motion, a man's head catches fire and then disintegrates behind a wall of flame when a large shell hits his helicopter, blowing the thing out of the sky.
In a knock-down-drag-out fight in the North Korean TV studio's control room, Aaron's head gets pounded into tables and a couple of his fingers are bitten completely off (with blood shooting onto the equipment, and Aaron gruesomely returning the "favor") before his assailant is shot and killed (amid more gushing blood). Machine gun fire takes down whole groups of guards and soldiers. A tank runs over a Jeep, its treads flattening the people inside. Kim shoots one of his bodyguards in the backside just to make an "ironic" point.
Crude or Profane Language
Nearly 150 f-words, handfuls of which are merged with "mother," and even more used in a sexual context. Some are subtitled, one is typed out on paper. There are more than 30 s-words. References to genitalia include the c-word (said three times), "c--k" and "c--ks----r" (three or four times) "d--k" (more than a dozen times), "p---y" (once) and "t-ts" (once). We hear "b--ch," "b--tard," "a--," "a--hole," "p---ed," "h---" and "douche bag." Obscene gestures evoke sex and masturbation. Jesus' name is abused two or three times, once in combination with the f-word. God's is misused about a dozen times, several times paired with "d--n."
Drug and Alcohol Content
A couple of wild party scenes involve alcohol and marijuana. Dave and Aaron get themselves jumpstarted before one of those bashes by taking what Dave calls "the strongest Ecstasy I've ever taken in my life." Cocaine is referenced. Dave and Kim talk about drinking margaritas. (Kim thinks they're "gay.") Kim smokes a big cigar.
Other Negative Elements
There's a joke about rapper Eminem singing songs with lyrics that "demean the elderly." Racial slurs and insulting stereotypes abound, usually revolving around Koreans. Jews are casually mocked for being "bad luck." Banter goes on and on and on about excrement and urine. As a man dies from poison, we see such bodily excretions splash in the dim light, along with vomit. Dave is delighted when he makes Kim "poop his pants."
The Interview begins with a young Korean girl singing a song to her countrymen before the launch of a giant nuclear missile. She wishes her supreme leader well, then continues:
"And the one thing in our time, we wish more than this, is for the United States to explode in a ball of fiery hell/May they be forced to starve and beg, and be ravaged by disease/May they be helpless, poor and sad and cold!/They are arrogant and fat! They are stupid and they're evil/May they drown in their own blood and feces/Die America, die!/Oh please won't you die?"
This would be just one more eye-rolling and grimace-inducing scene in a film chock-full of them had not a ominous note been sent to the film's distribution studio, Sony Pictures, just over a week before the movie was due to debut in theaters:
"Warning/We will clearly show it to you at the very time and places 'The Interview' be shown, including the premiere, how bitter fate those who seek fun in terror should be doomed to./Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made./The world will be full of fear./Remember the 11th of September 2001./We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time. (If your house is nearby, you'd better leave.)/Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment./All the world will denounce the SONY."
Lending credence to the threat of violence was the fact that it came on the heels of a successful and extremely damaging computer hack perpetrated against Sony, an attack intimated by the U.S. government to have been triggered by North Korea itself as a protestation of the movie's sarcastic mistreatment of Kim Jong-un. It set off a cascading series of actions and reactions by Sony, as well as the theater chains scheduled to screen the film. At one point the film's release was cancelled altogether, but then it reemerged with a much smaller profile (in 331 theaters instead of 3,000 or more). And it simultaneously appeared online, available for streaming—first for free, then for sale.
A run-of-the-mill Seth Rogen comedy has suddenly become a global firebrand, a rallying cry for free speech and a great new way for Americans to stick it to dour dictators everywhere. Just watch The Interview and you'll be taking a stand for truth, justice and the American way! Or at least that's the way it will seem to many.
So what will we all encounter if we decide to take a peek? If we want to find out what all the fuss is about? Well, what have we encountered in all those other R-rated Seth Rogen comedies (Neighbors, This Is the End, Funny People, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Pineapple Express, Superbad, Knocked Up, The 40-Year-Old Virgin) over the years? Sexual jokes and sexual situations, coarse and obscene language, gross and gory gunk piled up in the corners just for laughs.
The Interview does manage (at times) to serve as something of a political satire, hyperbolically tweaking despots and their derelict regimes. And there should always be room for that in our world. (History shows that it's just too dangerous for all of us when there's not.) But maybe find a better way to package such sentiments. There are far superior, far more creative, far more effective, even far funnier ways to support democracy and a civil society.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
James Franco as Dave Skylark; Seth Rogen as Aaron Rapaport; Lizzy Caplan as Agent Lacey; Randall Park as President Kim; Diana Bang as Sook
December 25, 2014
December 24, 2014