Baby, You’re a Firework
Why I love ‘The Interview’
Let’s be clear about one direction thing. The Interview—the Seth Rogen-James Franco action-comedy that has apparently provoked a devastating cyber crime and a heated exchange of words between the U.S. and North Korea—is a profoundly stupid movie whose two-hour running time is around 50-percent dick and poop jokes.
But don’t kid yourself. The Interview is also the most important movie of the year. And it’s fucking hilarious. Mild spoilers follow.
By now you know the gist of the film, which Rogen co-directed with Evan Goldberg from a script by Dan Sterling. Franco plays Dave Skylark, the host of a popular—which is to say, shitty—celebrity interview show. Rogen is his producer Aaron Rapaport.
Turns out North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, played to terrifying perfection by Randall Park, is Skylark’s biggest fan. Rapaport travels boisterously across China to meet Kim’s propagandist Sook—a fierce Diana Bang—and arrange an interview with the dictator.
And of course, the CIA wants Skylark and Rapaport to kill Kim and, hopefully, incite revolution in the hermit state.
But the T.V. host and his producer are bumbling incompetents whose greatest strength—actually, only strength—is their unabashed love for each other. Hijinks ensue.
But oh, the dick jokes. And gay jokes. And poop jokes. There’s a running gag about Kim’s cult of personality—that thanks to Sook’s propaganda, everyday North Koreans believe the physically perfect Great Leader doesn’t poop and doesn’t even have a butthole. “Because he doesn’t need one,” Sook explains.
At a critical and frankly disgusting moment, Kim proves that that’s not true.
Critics have latched onto The Interview’s scatological humor as evidence that—or even the reason that—it’s not a very good film. “No movie of this caliber would be complete without copious gratuitous references to genitalia and to various sex acts,” David Edmund Moody wrote for The Huffington Post, adding that the sex jokes are “clearly intended for shock value only.”
Moody and his ilk couldn’t be more wrong. The Interview obsesses over bodies in all their effluvial awkwardness for a reason. For our junk and assholes are the two things we all have in common, whether we’re Americans or North Koreans, T.V. producers or brutal dictators.
We’re all just clever apes, barely in command of our impulses and entirely at the mercy of our bodies’ squishy demands.
We built our political systems and, when they stop working for us, we can unbuild them.
Yes, sometimes by killing the people in charge—even though those people laugh and cry and secretly love Katy Perry, just like the rest of us do. “Baby, you’re a firework,” Skylark sings to Kim as, all around him, the dictator’s regime crumbles.
The Interview is a violent movie. It has to be in order to have any integrity at all. When Skylark and Rapaport expose Kim for what he is—a weeping, farting, fucking, shitting human being—the regime and its opponents in North Korea snarl and rage like the animals they, and we, truly are.
Bullets rip into screaming soldiers. Combatants chew each other’s fingers off. A tank grinds men into paste. A fireball consumes Kim in slow motion in a scene that seems to be the main instigator of the real North Korea’s online wrath.
Good guys, bad guys—they bleed, groan and die equally. Dictator and subject, we’re all basically the same inside.
And our politics must, at some level, acknowledge that.
Forget the dick jokes. That’s what The Interview’s really trying to say. And as Skylark and Rapaport make their escape, gunfire chatters in the background. North Korea is at war with itself. Rebels reminding the regime that, as Skylark says, everyone shits his pants.