WRITTEN REVIEW – The Interview (2015)
Directed by: Seth Rogan & Evan Goldberg
Written by: Dan Sterling
Starring: James Franco, Seth Rogan, Randall Park, Lizzy Caplan & Diana Bang
Music: Henry Jackman
Release Date: February 6th 2015
I normally save the first paragraph or two of my written reviews for an introduction to the movie in question. I talk about the backstory, its development, expectations etc. But here, I’m sure you guys and girls already know about ‘The Interview‘. After the Sony hack last year and the terrorist threats from “The Guardians of Peace” that followed, this movie got worldwide, mainstream media coverage. I guess that’s what happens when you make a movie about the assassination of a tyrannical dictator.
Either way, the movie is getting released in international territories so now it’s time to see what all the big fuss was about. Does ‘The Interview‘ fall flat or was it worth almost starting World War 3 over?
Dave Skylark (Franco) is the successful host of “Skylark Tonight” where he interviews celebrities and promotes petty celebrity gossip to the masses. However, his producer, Aaron Rapoport (Rogan), wants to start talking about serious news and journalism. The two get their chance when they discover that the dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong-un (Park) is a huge fan of their show and consents to an interview. The CIA then intervene and convince Dave and Aaron to assassinate Kim Jong-un when they visit North Korea in order to avert nuclear war. Can Dave and Aaron pull of the mission or will Kim manage to manipulate the worldwide broadcast of the titular interview to meet his own goals?
James Franco and Seth Rogan have been a great comedic duo for some time with ‘Pineapple Express‘ in 2008 and ‘This Is The End‘ in 2013 and the chemistry the two have with each other is one of the saving graces of ‘The Interview‘. The two are clearly very comfortable with each other with a lot of improv going on between them and there’s credence to Skylark’s and Rapoport’s long-standing friendship with each other. In fact, ‘The Interview‘ opens with “Skylark Tonight” celebrating its 1000th episode which prompts Rapoport’s decision to try and focus on more legitimate forms of journalism instead of celebrities such as Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Nicki Minaj, Emma Stone and Eninem who all have uncredited cameos.
Franco and Rogan are playing roles that the two are very comfortable in and their experience does show. James Franco plays the obnoxious, pot-head egomaniac and Rogan plays the straight-man with the occasional outlandish quirk. This is a solid dynamic and it works in ‘The Interview‘, a movie which, at its core, is a satire of America media and its obsession with celebrity culture while also being an adoration of the media’s potential to influence people and even topple governments.
While “Skylark Tonight” is the type of show to placate to the masses through the media, Kim Jong-Un uses his influence over the media in order to oppress his people while simultaneously portraying himself as a god. Early on in the movie, CIA Agent Lacey (Caplan) explains to Skylark how the citizens of North Korea view their dictator;
“King Jong-un is a master manipulator. His people…will believe anything he tells them, including that he can speak to dolphins or that he doesn’t urinate or defecate.”
When Skylark asks one of Kim’s personal assistants if this is true, she responds with;
“He works so hard he burns the energy from inside…he does not have a butthole. He has no need for one.”
A lot of the subject matter concerning the plight of North Korea is surprisingly well handled. While the movie does not make fun at the expense of the citizens of North Korea, it does poke fun at some of the urban legends surrounding the son of Kim Jong-Il. Speaking of which, the most surprising aspect of ‘The Interview‘ is how well realised Kim Jong-un is as a character. In fact, ‘The Interview‘ does a lot to humanise the tyrannical leader.
Obviously the movie doesn’t side with Kim or support his regime, but they paint the 31-year old leader as a man overwhelmed by the responsibility left by his overbearing, equally oppressive father. He has a massive inferiority complex and is willing to kill billions of people to prove that he isn’t weak. He plans to manipulate Dave Skylark in order to make him side with the plight of North Korea so that he can appear like a wonderful leader to the rest of the world and Skylark, having his own inferiority complex, falls for his manipulation.
It also helps that Randall Park is great in the role, getting across a lot of comedy but a surprising amount of nuance. Yes, Kim Jong-un starves and manipulates his people but he enjoys Margaritas even though he thinks they’re “gay because they are so sweet” and listens to Katy Perry’s “Firework” for inspiration.
“You know, Dave, sometimes I feel like a plastic bag…drifting through the wind…wanting to start again.”
It’s actually a very endearing portrayal. Of course, he is the villain of the movie but in order for it to be believable for Dave to befriend him, there needed to be some aspects of his personality to draw Dave to him. If there’s one problem with the movie, it’s Dave Skylark as a protagonist. While this is the type of character James Franco can portray in his sleep, sometimes the insufferable characteristics of him can really grate on you. Your mileage may vary depending on your tolerance for Franco, but if you dislike his over-the-top portrayal in previous bro-comedy films, then you’ll probably grow to loath Dave Skylark. The amount of times Dave single-handedly fails to pull off the CIA’s plan also becomes less funny as it goes on and it becomes unbelievable that someone can be THAT incompetent.
One disappointment of ‘The Interview‘ is that it could have been more politically incendiary or include more satire or commentary. The titular interview between Skylark and Kim plays as background noise to an action-scene in the video control room and the movie could have done more to portray the hardships of North Korea. ‘The Interview‘ is mainly interested in being a bro-comedy with lots of swearing, sex-jokes and toilet humour so I can’t begrudge it for not taking this approach, but considering that the intention of the movie is to show the influence of media, it feels odd that ‘The Interview‘ doesn’t use its pedestal to be more informative and to practise what it preaches.
And while ‘The Interview‘ is chiefly a comedy, the stretches between jokes are frequently long with a lull in the 2nd act where Franco and Rogan are separated from each other which causes the movie to lose its leading dynamic. But the supporting female cast comprising of Lizzy Caplan as the female CIA agent who convinces the two to take on the mission is good though her roles is limited and Diana Bang who is great as Sook Yung Park, an aide to the Kim family who has a guilty conscience.
The movie also has one hell of an climax including the now famous way that Kim Jong-un exits the film. I won’t spoil it just in case you haven’t already seen it, but the music is just perfect.
Speaking of music, the score is provided by Henry Jackman but as with most comedies it’s more like background noise so it doesn’t distract from the jokes. It’s not a bad score, but not memorable in any way. The special effects are decent, though when computer effects are implemented it is noticeable, including the CGI blood, even if it is satisfying to watch. Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogan’s direction is solid with lots of ambition considering the fact that this is a comedy. It feels bigger than it deserves to be and the film does make an impression visually.
Was ‘The Interview‘ the comedy event of the century? Hardly, but it is good. It’s a strong comedy though your mileage will vary depending on your tolerance for the brand of humour Franco and Rogan provide. But the two leads have great chemistry, the portrayal of Kim Jong-un is strangely compelling and there are some big laughs, even if they’re spaced out oddly. ‘The Interview‘ could/should have gone further concerning its themes of media influence from both an Eastern AND Western perspective and I think it was a huge missed opportunity to have most of the interview in the 3rd act get second billing to an action sequence. It’s a solid and enjoyable comedy, but we may have a hard time explaining to future generations why ‘The Interview‘ was such a big deal upon its release.
I give ‘The Interview‘ 3 and a half stars out of 5.
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Posted: 10th Feb 15