Remember the last low-brow comedy to centre on the attempted assassination of a world leader? I’m of course talking about Zoolander, where Ben Stiller’s empty-headed male model was brainwashed to murder the prime minister of Malaysia. Roger Ebert took issue with the subplot – “Didn’t it strike anybody connected with this movie that it was in bad taste to name a real country with a real prime minister?” – but I found it impossible to take seriously. Zoolander’s writing is as silly as its jokes, and it seems beside the point to treat it as cogent political commentary of any kind.
The same cannot be said of Seth Rogen/James Franco comedy The Interview, which exists in an awkward valley between political satire and dumb bro-comedy. It has enough investment in politics to provide a springboard for satire – whether of North Korea or America’s habit of overthrowing foreign leaders, take your pick – but instead bellyflops into ‘ironic’ racist/sexist jokes. Its only real success is a brief sequence riffing on the idea of ‘what if Kim Jong Un was a bro?’ It’s a wonderfully dumb concept, but dumb doesn’t preclude funny – and sadly, for the most part, funny is exactly what The Interview isn’t.