The Interview, the comedy pulled from theaters after North Korea hacked Sony Pictures, is about the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. And now, the scene where Kim bites it is out — and it's, well, not all that funny.
In the full video, Kim Jong-Un's immolation in slow motion is set to a soft cover of Katy Perry's "Firework. Not exactly a forgettable scene. But it doesn't work — at least not in the way that comedy taking on a dictatorship is supposed to.
One way to deal with dictatorship through humor is to satirize it. Charlie Chaplin's Hitler is, of course, the gold standard here, but Team America: World Police's take on Kim's father, Kim Jong Il, also works well. Team America's hyper-violent, petty, lonely Kim neatly exposes the same qualities in the North Korean regime.
The Interview's death scene doesn't do that. It's just a person being blown up in slow motion.
Moreover, there's a weird element of melancholy to this scene. It feels like we're supposed to be simultaneously laughing at Kim's death and mourning it at the same time. That's in keeping with Sony's desire, revealed in leaked emails, to present a "complex" and "multidimensional" Kim. And according to many of the precious few critics who have seen the film (see, for example, Drew McWeeny at HitFix), Randall Park's performance as Kim is the film's highlight.
But there's something troubling about asking us to have sympathy for this particular devil. Adrian Hong points out in The Atlantic, we'd never present other brutal leaders (like, say, ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi) in the same way in a film. That's because, in the American cultural consciousness, North Korea is as much a strange-and-quirky place as it is a brutal dictatorship. But the focus on the former can distract, in a bad way, from the fact that North Korea has the most horrifying human rights record on Earth.
Maybe the scene would work in context of the whole film. Maybe. But on its own, it fails as Team America-style satire. And it really doesn't work as a "complex" take on Kim Jong Un, what with his face melting off.
Update: a video clip of the scene was taken down due to a DMCA request from Sony Pictures. We've replaced it with a shorter animated GIF of the scene.