By Jake Coyle ,AP
That I was one of the relative few to see ��The Interview�� is not a boast I take any pleasure in.
It’s with heavy sadness, not pride, that I review Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s North Korean farce. As of Thursday morning, the film has been shelved just a week ahead of its planned release due to terrorist threats by hackers said to be connected to North Korea. The movie’s prospects of ever seeing the light of day are very much in doubt.
Yet ��The Interview�� is already assured of cinematic infamy. Whatever its future, it will go down as the satire that provoked an authoritarian dictatorship, roiled Sony Pictures in a massive hacking attack and prompted new questions of cyber warfare, corporate risk-tasking and comedic audacity.
The movie’s fate is a travesty, regardless of its merits. But what of its merits?
Though ��The Interview,�� directed by Rogen and Goldberg, never quite manages the duo’s calibrated blend of sincerity and over-the-top crudeness, it nevertheless usually pulses with an unpredictable absurdity and can-you-believe-we’re-doing-this glee. Its greatest charm is that it so happily brings the silliest, most ludicrous of knives (a preening James Franco, lots of butt jokes) to North Korea’s militarized gunfight.
Rogen plays Aaron Rapoport, a journalism-school grad who has found himself, ignobly, producing an ��Extra!��-like entertainment news show, ��Skylark Tonight,�� hosted by his friend Dave Skylark (Franco). The show traffics in the fluff of celebrity with occasional scoops. (Eminem makes a funny cameo as himself with the out-of-the-blue confession that he’s gay.)
When it’s learned that North Korea leader Kim Jong Un is a fan of the show, they maneuver to land an interview for a kind of modern ��Frost/Nixon�� televised tete-a-tete, though one with the same penchant for ascots. (Franco’s Skylark is an extreme dandy who speaks largely in over-used slang and has a strange obsession with ��Lord of the Rings.��)
Before their trip to Pyongyang, a CIA agent (Lizzy Caplan) recruits the pair with the mission to turn their big interview into an assassination. ��Take him out,�� she instructs before putting them through training.
Like another comedy about the wrong Americans sent overseas, Bill Murray’s ��Stripes,�� ��The Interview�� is better on American soil and on less sure footing once it lands in North Korea. This is partly logistical. Though ��The Interview�� obviously couldn’t have shot on location and had limited images to draw on for its sets, the movie fails to create even a half-plausible North Korean atmosphere and is left claustrophobically meandering almost entirely in palace interiors.