Directors: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg
Writer: Dan Sterling
Stars: James Franco, Seth Rogen, Lizzy Caplan, Randall Park
Release date: December 26th, 2014
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Running time: 112 minutes
Best part: Franco and Rogen’s chemistry.
Worst part: The sluggish middle third.
Oh boy, wasn’t 2014 a big year for entertainment?! As music, art, and fashion become universally applicable talking points, cinema almost dropped off the map of public appeal and critical interest. Suffering the lowest cinema attendance numbers in 20 years, Hollywood was taken down a peg. Most importantly, The Interview revealed more than any parody, satire, or documentary could ever hope to. This comedy, offending everyone in North Korea, forced hacking set-up Guardians of Peace’s hand. Seriously, we’re threatening to go to war over this movie?!
Don’t get me wrong, The Interview is a decent product. Its light-hearted, fluffy allure makes it a worthwhile 2-hour distraction. Despite the controversy and commercial losses, it doesn’t deserve this much hatred. More-offensive comedies The Great Dictator and Team America: World Police previously took aim at the world’s biggest dick-tators. In a parallel dimension, this would have been crushed under a wave of birdmen, imitation games, and theories of everything. Its formulaic plot and typical casting choices sink any chance of true greatness. We meet Jimmy Fallon-esque talk show host Dave Skylark (James Franco) and his producer Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen) celebrating their 1000th episode of tabloid pap Skylark Tonight. After a profound realisation, Aaron’s affection for the show wears thin. Dave – accustomed to pulling dark secrets out of Tinseltown’s brightest stars – promises Aaron he’ll deliver more legit news bulletins and features. Their wishes are granted by way of a peculiar long-time fan. North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un (Randall Park) requests a live interview with Skylark. The CIA, led by Agent Lacey (Lizzy Caplan), tasks the celebrity-destroying duo with assassinating the ruthless dictator.
Besides the string of mind-blowing behind-the-scenes events, there is little difference between The Interview and anything else Rogen and co. have delivered over the past decade. Rogen, directing and crafting the story alongside partner Evan Goldberg, were simply reaching for previous effort This is the End‘s critical and commercial success. The dynamic duo certainly meddle with intriguing concepts. They, refusing to bow down to studio pressures, have much to confess about the studio system. The balance between by-the-numbers plot and bonkers satirical commentary works throughout The Interview‘s opening third. Skylark’s show is a silver lining-free dark cloud over Hollywood. These skits – mimicking the same shallow flash and pizazz as Entertainment Tonight or TMZ – deliver the biggest laughs. Certain set pieces – featuring big-names Eminem, Rob Lowe, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt – let Rogen and co. off the leash. The standard straight man/kooky guy dynamic clicks immediately. The second third, however, crawls slower than United States/North Korea negotiations. The Rogen/Franco formula is pushed aside as Jong-un comes into the picture. Predictably, the central conflict (take a guess what happens here!) stalls this otherwise enjoyable and thought-provoking action-comedy. Despite the second-act flaws, Jong-un nearly steals the show. The baby-faced dictator even gets a convincing and well-rounded character arc. Here, instead of Team America‘s petulant-toddler image, the North Korean leadership is filled with misunderstood nobodies.
“Haters gonna hate, and ain’ters gonna ain’t!” (Dave Skylark (James Franco), The Interview)
Once again, however, Rogen and co. appear to have more fun making these movies than we do watching them. Though drifting above the Grown Ups series’ stench of laziness, it comes off like a million-dollar get-together. The performances elevate The Interview above Rogen’s recent efforts. Franco’s non-stop charisma and whacky timing bolster several well-thought-out zingers. Rogen’s reserved demeanour balances out Franco’s manic persona. Park’s nubile performance saves several lackluster second-act moments. It ticks all the common-theme boxes. Its anti-celebrity agenda is worth several ironic chuckles. The second-two thirds sharply commentate on US/NK relations. Tearing both countries down, Rogen and co. illuminate several relevant and idealistic viewpoints. For once, the stoner has the right idea! Who Knew, huh? Thankfully, the final third kicks this tiresome comedy into overdrive. The interview sequence, though hammering its pro-freedom/anti-bullying message into the ground, is chock-a-block with hysterical gross-out gags, over-the-top gore, and cute one-liners. Rogen and Goldberg experiment with action, scale, and practical effects. The tank chases, shootouts, and high-flying stunts show off some of the budget. However, despite the chaos and hilarity, its near-two-hour run-time severely dampens the allure.
The controversy surrounding The Interview, including the intense criticism over its subject matter, has little to do with the movie itself. Certainly, it’s not worth the world-destroying hoopla. However, it’s still an enjoyable silly and hysterical ode to Mel Brooks, Abbott and Costello and every bumbling comedic icon in between. Rogen and Goldberg’s raucous sense of humour, solid political messages, and fun action beats are worth the online download price. However, Rogen’s hands-on control is suffocating everything he touches. That beard and belly laugh only get him so far with us Western devils!