The big selling point of Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen's doomed comedy The Interview was a jaw-dropper: When the producer and the star of a sensationalistic talk show -- played, respectively, by Rogen and James Franco -- get a chance to interview wackbird North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the CIA butts in and persuades them to assassinate him.
Building a comedy around the planned murder of a real-life geopolitical figure is a pretty wild idea, and apparently, the real-life Kim — he of the cereal-bowl pompadour and Spanky McFarland jawline -- thought so too. In June, after seeing a trailer for the film, North Korean officials called the movie an "act of war" and held the Obama administration responsible for it, threatening a "decisive and merciless countermeasure" if the film were released. In late November, Sony Pictures became the victim of a major computer hack, carried out by a group identifying itself as Guardians of Peace. The North Korean government has denied responsibility, but "Guardians of Peace"? If that doesn't sound like the handiwork of a scary, nuke-happy comic-book regime, I don't know what does.
With so much drama riding on its mere existence, The Interview deserves the poetic justice of actually being great. But the more desperately a comedy tries to be outrageous, the less likely it is to be outrageous — or even just funny. And that's the fate that befalls The Interview, which offers a few moments of casual brilliance -- like the opening sequence, in which a radiant North Korean schoolgirl sings a cheerful anthem about her desire for Americans to drown in their own blood -- but otherwise trips itself up in the threads of its contrived absurdity.