An ‘Interview’ you can skip

On Christmas Day, some Americans did what they felt was their civic duty and went to see the controversial new film “The Interview,” which Sony decided to release in select independent theaters and online after being chastised by both liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans – led by President Barack Obama – for initially caving to North Korea and pulling the plug on the Seth Rogin-James Franco starrer, which makes copious fun of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.

You’ll recall that Sony even had embarrassing emails hacked by cyber-terrorists, and North Korea, professing shock – shock, I tell you – that the U.S. would accuse it of such a crime, offered to conduct a joint investigation of the incident.

Which is a bit like O.J. Simpson saying he was going to search for ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman’s killer.

Uh-huh. Moving on, I was among those Americans who spent part of Christmas Day watching the movie with my family at home – thanks to the technical wizardry of my nephew James, take a bow – and may I say that it was two hours of my life that I will never have back.

It’s not that “The Interview” is a terrible movie. It’s just that it’s a terribly mediocre movie that belongs to a long line of turkeys about bumbling Americans mixed up in international intrigue. (“Ishtar,” anyone?) It’s also a road picture and a bro picture, which means there’s lots of 12-year-old-boy humor about urinating, defecating, anal sex, private parts, hot girls, gays, homophobia, drugs, vomiting, breaking wind, margaritas and Katy Perry. I think Kim Jong-un, American pop culture junkie, should screen it, because really he has nothing to worry about. It’s the Columbia J School that should be offended.

At its heart, “The Interview” is the story of the twisted, symbiotic relationship that exists between the celebrated and those who chase them, the so-called journalists. Franco, playing with type, is Dave Skylark, the airheaded host of a magazine show like “Entertainment Tonight” and “Access Hollywood.” It’s a measure of the filmmakers’ real fears that while Rogin and co-director Evan Goldberg apparently never worried enough about Kim Jong-un’s response to change his name or his country, they were quick to fictionalize Franco’s character and show so as not to offend the very programs they’d be using to hawk their pix.

When Skylark gets wind of Kim’s infatuation with his program, he convinces producer Aaron Rapaport (Rogin), the worrywart yin to his free-spirited yang, that they should secure an interview with him as a way to enhance their journalistic credibility in the manner of, um, “Frosty/Nixon,” one of the film’s few good jokes.

Enter the CIA, a somewhat amusing subplot to kill Kim with a deadly ricin strip that soon veers off into placing large instruments up orifices (don’t ask), some femme fatales who aren’t quite what they appear to be, lots of guns and explosions, and you have the makings of a spy comedy that is not worth the hype.  

Which has led my uncle to wonder if Sony planned all this as a publicity stunt. I don’t think Hollywood is that Macchiavellian – or that smart.

There is a real idea here – the user’s game played by the press and its subjects – along with some real performances by Randall Park as the complex, crafty Kim and Diana Bang as his sympathetic handler. But the film is so interested in being loud and vulgar that  themes, plot and characterization – the essence of storytelling – are subsumed.

Still, “The Interview” is trending as YouTube’s most popular video, with the Chinese being particularly curious.

Maybe my uncle was right.