Years from now, our children and grandchildren will want to know about the early 21st century. Of its great moments. Nay, its greatest moment. They’ll gather in a circle, and ask, “Pop-pop? Will you tell us of Dennis Rodman‘s journeys to North Korea?”
And we will show them Diplomats.
One of real life’s great untapped comedy premises has finally been tapped. As per The Hollywood Reporter, 20th Century Fox has bought the rights to Diplomats, a comedy pitch based off Earth’s premiere former pro baller/ruthless dictator bromance. Fox has tasked Ride Along director Tim Story with the project, with Jonathan Abrams on script duties and The Heat producer Peter Chernin producing. THR describes the film as a two-hander (that is, a film focusing around two co-leads), so it makes perfect sense that Fox would pass this to the guy who just made $100M off a buddy comedy.
Plus, there’s so much material to be mined out of the Rodman/Jong-un relationship. Both men frequently make headlines: Rodman for his gender-bending dress sense and the time he started screaming at a CNN anchor, Jong-Un for whoppers like “Why Kim Jong-Un Probably Did Not Feed His Uncle to 120 Hounds” and “Dictator Kim Jong-un Used to Binge on Vodka and Big Macs.” Together, in a film meant to poke fun at this thing that absolutely deserves fun-poking, there’s potential for some giant laughs.
Here’s the problem, though: Diplomats has a little bit of friendly competition. Coming out this October is another North Korean comedy, The Interview, from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. In this one, a talk show host (James Franco) and his producer (Rogen) travel to North Korea for an exclusive interview with Jong-un. And then the CIA takes the two of them aside, with a casual “Hey, while you’re over there… we’re gonna need you to assassinate Jong-un for us. Thanks.” Cue the wacky hijinks and at least one “Franco and Rogen toke up with high-ranking Korean official” scene.
Where The Interview has the edge- the big, potentially game-winning edge- is in Kim Jong-Un. They’re using the real Kim Jong-Un. Not the man itself, obviously, but his likeness, his name, and everything else. Rogen admitted it outright:
“It’s Kim Jong-un. Literally King Jong-un in the movie. We figured it’s North Korea, you might as well make it Kim Jong-un.”
They cast actor Randall Park as the Big-Mac-and-basketball-loving despot, and set photos (which you can see over at The Canadian Press) confirm that Park is now the spitting image of Jong-un, complete with facial chub and extremely shiny hair. Meanwhile, Diplomats will only be “inspired by” Jong-un and Rodman, sounding very much like we’ll be getting a generic-brand Rodman/Jong-un rather than the genuine article.
If a film wants to mock extremely famous real-life personalities and it doesn’t actually step up to name them outright, things feel a little cheap. Consider the last movie to poke fun at a non-specific, gender-bending basketball star known for outlandish and occasionally insane behaviour: Juwanna Mann. Now think about how long it’s been since you last considered Juwanna Mann, for any reason whatsoever. Tim Story has Ride Along behind him and it’s unlikely that Diplomats will fare anywhere nearly as poorly as Juwanna Mann did (especially if you tack “From the Director of Ride Along” on a few TV spots), but this kind of spoofy take on subject matter does not have a strong track record.
If Diplomats does end up going the real-names-and-likenesses route, it’ll still be releasing well after its Korean comedy competition- from a duo whose last burst of real-life-celebrity-mocking, This is the End, was extremely well-received. There’s also the chance that if the film isn’t acerbic enough (or if it paints the friendship between Rodman and Jong-un in a manner too positive and jokey), it’ll be accused of making light of a real dictator and his frequent human rights abuses. Diplomats may be navigating a media minefield no matter what it ends up becoming.
But there’s one surefire way Fox and Story can cement itself into the annals of film history: cast Dennis Rodman as Dennis Rodman, and just let the crazy flow. As evidence that the man can act, I present to you the climax of his 1997 film, Double Team, in which Rodman saves Jean-Claude Van Damme from an exploding and also tiger-filled Roman Coliseum. He does so through the magic of Coca-Cola. If Diplomats is going to level its sights at Dennis Rodman, it had better be prepared for weirdness in its purest state.