The threat of censorship is like being called “this generation’s Bob Dylan” — it’s bound to garner headlines, hipster pushback, and general disappointment when impossible expectations aren’t met. So I’ll start with the obvious disclaimer: The Interview isn’t high art, great satire, or generally important except to the extent that the events surrounding it sparked conversation. If you watch it because you feel it’s your duty to “protect free speech”, you should only do so under the conviction that all speech, not just meaningful or tasteful speech, is worth protecting. It won’t earn its controversy for you.
With that out of the way, let’s lower the bar back down to “Seth Rogen comedy” and the obvious baggage that comes with it: unbelievable situational humor, low-brow jokes that won’t land if you’re not having fun, and a “bromance as infinite gag machine” theme that probably won’t have a long, socially-conscious shelf-life. Grounded in that reality? I really liked The Interview. If I was wary of tasteless nationalistic satire, my concerns died pretty quickly: its Kim Jung Un is clearly an absurd bro caricature (think Harold and Kumar’s George Bush), I can’t recall a single time it used North Korean citizens’ ignorance as the butt of a joke, and the only real semblance of venom was aimed at the entertainment news cycle in the U.S — with surprisingly funny, if predictably cameo-driven, results. On the laugh-a-minute barometer it was leaps and bounds above the recent Neighbors, and could square off against any post-Superbad Apatow-ish fare pretty handily: this is half due to Seth and James’ easygoing chemistry (reunited with fellow Freaks and Geeks alum Lizzy Kaplan), and half due to a script which, while hardly transcendent, is peppered with more genuinely clever references than I’d have expected. Stripped of the crowded-theatre-as-echo-chamber bump most comedies get, that barometer is no small feat. Those who dislike raunch-com should also be pleasantly surprised, if not totally satisfied: while not family-friendly, the jokes are atypically clean, relying more on action and zany character moments than synonyms for “penis” (not that there aren’t a few of those too…) Even casual misogyny or homophobia was scarce, with most apparent examples turned into self-aware, winking reversals.
Was it the best comedy of the year? No way. Will it stand the test of time? Pretty doubtful. Is it sometimes a bit stupid? Hell yeah, but it’s frequently not. Did I laugh a whole lot more than I snootily anticipated, sober on a couch, at 1pm on a Saturday? Guilty as charged.
Mini review 4/6 at: