(Update: I see I managed to post this review twice. I’ll leave both in place to avoid possible broken links. The later version is here, but except for possible typos I don’t think there are any differences.)
James Franco plays the not-very-bright host of a popular celebrity interview show. Seth Rogen is his producer and best friend but regrets not having followed his dream of being a serious journalist. But then he scores a journalistic coup: It turns out that North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un, a big pop culture fan, watches Franco’s show on satellite and is willing to be interviewed live and in person in Pyongyang. Not only are Franco and Rogen delighted, so is the CIA, which concocts a way for them to assassinate Kim with a slow-acting poison.
Randall Park plays Kim Jong-Un, which Kim should probably find flattering. Lizzy Kaplan plays a hot CIA agent and Diana Bang is the stern North Korea propaganda official Rogen finds himself lusting after even though she never smiles and earnestly insists that Supreme Leader Kim lacks a lower orifice since his excellence precludes any need for him to poop.
As you no doubt recall, North Korea threw an international hissy fit on learning of this film and theater chains canceled bookings in response to terror threats, but public outrage led to Sony’s releasing it on schedule (as a Christmas movie yet).
Some cynics have suggested that the studio might have engineered at least some of this, because the film probably wouldn’t have done as well financially on its own merits. That might be giving them too much credit for cleverness.
James Franco is mainly annoying, though he has his moments. Seth Rogen (who also co-directed with Evan Goldberg) has most of the funny bits, and there are enough to keep the film from being downright bad if not sufficient to make it good. That assessment seems shared by most reviewers, though at least one (Drew McWeeny at HitFix) found the film “laugh out loud funny all the way through” and another (Scott Foundas at Variety) called it an “alleged satire that’s about as funny as a communist food shortage, and just as protracted.” Even the fratboys who might be the film’e target audience are apt to be disappointed, perhaps even outraged, by the tiny amount of screen time allocated to breasts.