"The Interview" is a funny movie that does a stand-up job showcasing how a not particularly serious or informed person would deal with Kim Jong Un -- and evil itself, with all its blandishments.
James Franco plays talk show host Dave Skylark, who discovers that the North Korean dictator loves his show. Skylark's susceptibility to flattery renders him willfully blind. Because Kim plays up to him, Skylark wants to believe that the phony grocery his chauffeured car happens to drive by is real, that reports that Kim starves his people are the result of media bias and that Kim, like Skylark, is just misunderstood. Besides, they both like Katy Perry, so deep down they both must be good guys.
In real life, that appears to have been the thinking of NBA star Dennis Rodman, whose courtship by Kim seemed anything but humorous.
"The Interview" heartily lampoons Skylark's Rodman-like foreign affairs illiteracy. When producer Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen) first suggests a one-on-one with Kim, Skylark crows that the sit-down will be like "Frosty Nixon." When Kim boasts that Stalin gave his father a beloved tank, Skylark corrects him: "In America, we pronounce it Stallone."
I downloaded the movie because Pyongyang didn't want me to watch it. When I first heard about "The Interview," I wondered why the Rogen-Franco-Evan Goldberg collaboration didn't make up a phony dictatorship with a Kim-like strongman, in the model of Charlie Chaplin's "The Great Dictator." That would have been not only more tasteful but also remotely respectful.
But then the whole idea behind this brand of "bro" comedy is that there is no such thing as being too tasteless or going too far. At heart, "The Interview" is a goofball stoner movie. There are boob jokes, fat jokes, Korean jokes, bathroom humor, sexual high jinks. No gag is too raunchy, and no body part is free from ridicule.
Violence? You bet. And it is gratuitous. When Kim gives Skylark a cute puppy as a tribute to the TV star's childhood pet Digby, the gesture is funny in part because you wonder just how far the writers -- Dan Sterling, Rogen and Goldberg -- will go for a laugh. Spoiler alert: The puppy lives.
I laughed a lot. But there is one part of "The Interview" that left me cold -- its use of a certain four-letter word. This word, used to describe a female body part, is equivalent to the N-word in its crudeness. But though there is controversy over African-Americans' use of the N-word, I know no woman who finds it a liberating exercise to use this term in reference to herself or other women. In my experience, only creepy men who truly hate women use it.
I defend the movie's writers' right to use offensive language. I also have a right not to like it. If Guardians of Peace hadn't hacked Sony and turned the movie into a must-see form of protest, I would expect not to have seen "The Interview" until it aired on TV -- with that certain word bleeped out.
In Hollywood, the line is clear: Spare the puppy, and you can call women by whatever slur is handy.