Well, we’re all still here. Despite all the controversy and general hoo-ha surrounding The Interview, it would seem directors Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg will not in fact be the avatars of a nuclear apocalypse. While the questions the film’s reduced distribution has raised about censorship and artistic responsibility are all quite valid, it only takes a few minutes of watching The Interview to be baffled that all this fuss was over a movie this freaking stupid.
Now, while I use the word ‘stupid’, I don’t necessarily mean that as a criticism. As evidenced in the duo’s previous comedy This Is The End, they revel in the idiocy of their characters. There is plenty of childish, but undeniably funny, material to be milked from again throwing their moronic characters so hopelessly out of their depth. Sadly, it takes a long while for the film’s best gags to come to fruition, and with some irreparably terrible plotting, poor pacing, and whatever the hell is going on with James Franco, The Interview simply does not live up to the spotlight that’s been shone on it.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you should be aware of The Interview’s plot by now. After 1000 episodes of his popular celebrity tabloid show Skylark Tonight, producer Aaron Rapaport (Rogen) starts feeling listless about the show’s frivolous subject matter. Upon learning that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un (played by Randall Park) is a fan of the show, host Dave Skylark (Franco) sees a chance for them to finally do some worthwhile journalism. From there the two set off for North Korea to interview the infamous Supreme Leader, but not before the CIA can step in and involve them in an assassination plot.
So, let’s discuss the nuclear-armed elephant in the room. Either showing tremendous balls or a total lack of tact, The Interview chooses to make its villain one of the world’s most powerful living dictators rather than hiding behind a metaphor and just inventing someone. You would expect, given the team’s particular brand of humour, that the political landscape would serve primarily as a backdrop to Franco and Rogen’s antics, but the film does in fact follow through, structuring itself around criticising and attacking Kim Jong-Un.
While I’m all for using comedy to talk about important political issues, The Interview really doesn’t have anything worthwhile to say on the matter and it feels like they are poking the bear simply because it’s a gimmick that sells. The saving grace seems to come when the duo decide murder doesn’t accomplish anything and try instead to take him down with peaceful means, but the movie backflips pretty quickly on this revelation and goes right back to laughing about his demise (don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler). Regardless of your politics, it’s uncomfortable watching a movie that trades on dick jokes making light of killing an actual person. It doesn’t make me scared, or worried about anyone’s reaction. Just uncomfortable.
The other big problem with the film’s high concept is the half-arsed plotting that goes into getting these slovenly Americans over there. The first third of the movie just goes through the motions, all the while risking its audience’s interest with a contrived story and cheap, uninventive jokes. It’s a shame, as both the humour and the characters start working much better as the film progresses. Even eye-rolling-ly juvenile jokes like “honey-dicking” ferment into fun and creative running gags that remind of how unqualified Skylark and Rapaport are for the world of espionage.
What doesn’t get better though, is James Franco’s bizarre take on a TV presenter. Franco feels like he’s in a different movie to everyone else, turning the goofy and oblivious up to max in a movie that was plenty silly to begin with. You get the sense he’s trying to make a statement on the self-congratulating and easily manipulated news-media, but the result is nothing but distracting and lowers the film’s credibility as a whole.
Rogen is far more successful as Skylark’s producer Rapaport, both comedically and at being an actual, fully-formed character. Though he does get dragged down on occasion by the script’s poor pacing and adolescent humour, Rogan provides most of the film’s best laughs, walking the line between playing the straight man and the quirky stoner we all know and love. Sure, he’s not really doing anything we haven’t seen before, but both Rogen and co-director Goldberg know how to make his comedy work and he’s utilized perfectly here.
Getting past the question of whether it’s a good idea or not, Randall Park has a blast with his take on Kim Kong-Un. We first meet Kim as a nervous and gushing fan of Skylark, completely disarmed by his proximity to American celebrity. Immediately he’s painted as excitable, insecure and someone who just needs a friend. Park gives us a surprisingly well-rounded character for what is essentially a caricature, swiftly and believably alternating from adolescent awe to crazed dictator.
The Interview has garnered a lot of attention thanks to the controversy surrounding its plot, which is an incredibly unfair shadow to have cast over this calibre of comedy. Though it can be a little hard to find amongst the many dry spots (especially in the first half), its questionable gimmick and the James Franco of it all, there is still plenty of fun to be had in this fish-out-of-water comedy. Despite all the coverage and discussion it’s received, The Interview is definitely not a movie you need to see, but it’s still one you just may enjoy.
THE REEL SCORE: 7/10