'The Interview': What the Critics Are Saying

The controversial, hacker-targeted R-rated comedy stars Seth Rogen, James Franco, Lizzy Caplan and Randall Park

The Interview stars James Franco and Seth Rogen as a talk-show duo who is offered the first-ever TV interview with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (Randall Park), and is ordered by a CIA agent (Lizzy Caplan) to assassinate him.

Directed by Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the controversial Sony title has made the company the target of a widespread, month-long hack, surfacing executives' personal emails and salaries, among other private information. After major theater chains decided against showing the R-rated comedy in response to terrorist threats, Sony canceled the release.

However, the studio's decision has since been reversed, and tickets are selling fast at the independent theaters that have agreed to screen the film on Christmas Day. Additionally, YouTube, Google Play, Xbox and Sony have agreed to distribute the film.

Read what top critics are saying about The Interview:

The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy calls it "an intensely sophomoric and rampantly uneven comic takedown of an easy but worrisomely unpredictable target, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. In the relatively sparse annals of irreverent major studio comedies that pissed off foreign nations, for big laughs this one doesn't rate anywhere near Borat or Team America: World Police. ... As political satire goes, The Interview has the comic batting average of a mediocre-to-average Saturday Night Live sketch, with a few potent laughs erupting from an overall mash of sex, drugs and TV broadcasting jokes that feel rooted in a sense of humor primarily characterized by a frat-boy/altered state/prolonged adolescence mind-set."

Additionally, "if you set up as provocative a premise as do the makers of The Interview, you ultimately have to deal with all its implications; let's just say that what concludes the film is rote action, simplistic wish-fulfillment stuff that feels cheap and naive and more concerned with looking coolly kick-ass than with any real-world consequences. Even if one part of the film is sincere in wanting to highlight North Korea's negatives (famine, ideological orthodoxy, cult of personality, militarism, nuclear brinkmanship, et al.), the larger part is devoted to very Western-style sexual grossness, deterministic outrageousness, self-satisfied obliviousness and contended immaturity." Alongside Franco and Rogen, "Park brings great energy and enthusiasm to his tricky job of portraying the world's least known big-deal ruler — there are even scenes of him getting the famous Kim haircut and selecting a suit from a closet full of identical ones."

See more 11 Times North Korea Was the Bad Guy in Movies and TV Shows

Time's Richard Corliss writes, "Beyond the ballsy premise, ... this is your basic Rogen farce about sloppy-happy-harried stoners trying to bluff their way out of trouble. We mean Knocked Up, Superbad, Pineapple Express, Neighbors, This Is the End and nearly all other movies Rogen has starred in or written. ... Rogen serves up the usual farrago of sexual outrage and guy-bonding, only this time in the guise of nervy satire using real names." Of Franco, he notes that "few stars can radiate the joy he does in playing an idiot who happens to be popular. ... Even to a skeptic, Franco makes grinning inanity attractive," while "the most complex and sympathetic — or at least pathetic — figure is Kim, played with alternating charm and menace by Park."

Altogether, "in its parade of ribald gags and infantile preoccupation with body parts, not to mention a climactic decapitation, water-balloon style, The Interview displays all the mindless excesses that repressive regimes condemn in Hollywood movies. Which may be Rogen and Goldberg’s point — 'See, here’s what they hate about us. And you’re gonna love it.'"

Time Out New York's David Ehrlich explains that the film is "fashioning The Great Dictator and Inglourious Basterds into a cross joint and then lighting it from both ends. ... It’s Park’s performance that elevates the premise of a routine SNL sketch into the stuff of a compelling and genuinely radical feature, the actor portraying Kim as an endearingly deranged despot with nuclear daddy issues." It's the "halfhearted but hilarious look at the fine line between celebrity and idolatry" that is "the genius of The Interview: It isn’t just the most sophisticated and beautifully shot of Rogen’s star vehicles, it’s also the most giddily puerile. As funny as Neighbors and as demented as This Is the End, The Interview confirms Rogen as the most ambitious mainstream comedian in Hollywood."

Read more 'The Interview': Which Theaters Are Showing the Film on Christmas Day

New York Daily News' Joe Neumaier states, "In their third film together, Franco and Rogen have a terrific banter and an underlay of affection. This kind of rapport is rare. ... Real-life geopolitical blunders aside, The Interview generally hits its marks. And every time it does skid into juvenile idiocy — with too much scatological humor, for instance, and an overuse of “you-go-bro!” attitude — it follows it with a stride or two toward uproarious meta-satire. ... Too bad dictators and terrorists don’t think they’re that funny, because The Interview is."

The Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern notes, "It’s a buddy comedy, with a slob aesthetic, that became the provocation for real-world events of shocking import; the quality of the thing wouldn’t seem to matter at this point. Yet the remarkably dismal quality is emblematic of the mind-set that brought the movie, and its attendant crises, into being. ... In the movie world, there’s no debate; watching The Interview is torture from almost start to finish."

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