Breaking news: North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme has suddenly flourished and sources indicate the isolated Communist nation now has the power to fire missiles across the world, most likely to the United States of America which it has an antagonistic relationship with. But never mind that, because Eminem is being interviewed on the popular Dave Skylark show, a tabloid, celebrity-obsessed chat session which is notable for getting scoops on various trashy topics. As it is tonight, when the rapper admits casually that he is a homosexual – Skylark (James Franco) cannot believe his ears, and his producer Aaron Rapaport (Seth Rogen) rejoices in the control room, because it doesn’t get any better than that.
Or does it? How about a real coup when soul searching on the part of Aaron after meeting a producer he used to know who now works on a top rated serious news magazine programme causes him to cast his net wider than, for example, Rob Lowe admitting he is bald on live television. It turns out the North Korean leader (Randall Park) is a big fan of certain Western media, and the Skylark show is among his favourites, so wouldn’t it be incredible if Kim Jong-un himself was the interviewer’s next subject? Yes, that would be… not a good idea if you were Sony paying for the latest comedy by a bunch of hot comedy talent, since it appeared to trigger a huge global controversy that culminated in the U.S. secret service accusing North Korea of hacking into Sony’s computers to punish them for their hubris.
Or did they? Was this a well-organised technological assault by a hostile nation on a company’s offices on American soil, or was it something no less ingenious, but somewhat less political than it sounded? As the news was released that Sony’s computer network was less than security conscious, the trail became murkier and harder to perceive, in spite of the condemnation of North Korea for the movie at the heart of the fuss, and eventually it was difficult to tell what any of it was about at all. Sony initially said they were not going to release it, but then they did after all, leading an improbable subject for the free speech debate to be watched by quite a few, many of whom were asking, if this was free speech, wouldn’t it have been better if they’d shut up? It was, to be fair, a succession of crude gags in search of a plot.
That plot they did find contained certain political aspects smuggled in, criticising both America for its overconfidence, hypocrisy and lack of awareness, yet also reiterating the oppressive regime in North Korea was responsible for the deaths of too many of its citizens, not to mention the repression that had to suffer under, was an undeniable problem. It did this in a way that Rogen and his writing and directing partner Evan Goldberg knew all too well, through the filter of celebrity, and it was at its most intriguing when it posited major world leaders and television personalities were not too different in terms of handling their public images versus their private lives. This was especially ironic in the way that the Sony hack has exposed the entertainment makers much the same as Kim was meant to be exposed by Skylark.
But what Pyongyang really objected to was the part of the plot where Skylark and Rapaport were ordered to assassinate Kim when the interview is actually set up, reasoning fairly that if it had been a non-American country releasing a movie about their celebrities murdering President Obama then that table turning would have been vehemently criticised by Washington. Yet that was really giving The Interview too much credit, and sad to say once you’d watched it you could acknowledge the controversy for the storm in the teacup it really was, for mostly this was a typical R-rated comedy with all the daftness and bodily function jokes they could pack into just under two hours. Some of it was genuinely amusing, even laugh out loud, but the fact remained by the time it was out in the world the movie was the least interesting thing about that news story of late 2014, and its gung ho finale was rather less imaginative than you would have hoped, as if all that subversion was given up to eventually play it safe. You couldn’t hate a movie with a reference to Digby, the Biggest Dog in the World, though. Music by Henry Jackman.