The Interview Review

Posted: January 17, 2015 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

interviewWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

One of the craziest stories in the film world of 2014 was the Sony Hack, which saw multiple documents, emails, and private information leaked to the internet. Though the case is still ongoing, the apparent catalyst for all of the aggression was the Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg directed comedy The Interview, and its story of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s fictional assassination. The hack was quickly followed by threats that theaters screening the film would be attacked. Theater chains almost immediately pulled the plug and Sony quickly announced they would not show the film. This led to a huge outcry from the public regarding rights of freedom of speech and the notion of a major corporation balking at the threats of terrorists. Of course, the cosmic comedy of all of this is that anyone who knows the comedies people like Seth Rogen make recognized the absurdity of such aggression being created from this of all films. Most of us knew The Interview was never going to be a bold work of razor sharp satire attacking politics in the vein of The Great Dictator or Dr. Strangelove, but a lowbrow comedy about slackers and idiots. Sure enough, when the film was finally released online, many saw it out of an obligation and the reaction was almost unanimously, “That was pretty dumb”. Dumb or not, I like these kind of comedies, and I didn’t let the somewhat negative reactions deter my own enthusiasm.

Dave Skylark (James Franco) is a TV personality and host of the talk show “Skylark Tonight”, where his subjects tend to evolve around issues of celebrity culture and gossip. Much of Dave’s success is owed to his manager, Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen), who took the show when it was middling and turned it into a ten year running success. However Aaron is disappointed with where his career has gone as he always saw himself being a real journalist. That chance arises when Korean dictator Kim Jong-un (Randall Park) reveals he is a huge fan of “Skylark Tonight”. Dave and Aaron see this as an opportunity to land in an interview with the reclusive dictator. The pair land the historic task, but are quickly tapped by FBI agent Lacey (Lizzy Caplan) who has a more dangerous mission on her mind; for Dave and Aaron to assassinate Kim Jong-un.

The first twenty minutes or so of The Interview are pretty shaky. Many of the jokes seem like cheap pop-culture references that aren’t fully thought out and a lot of really obvious gags land with a hollow thud. The lack of laugh also shines a spotlight on some of Rogen and Goldberg’s weaknesses as directors. The editing seems pretty choppy at the beginning with the film having a hard time finding its footing. Additionally, the cinematography is pretty poor, with the lighting being haphazard and too dark. However the film does eventually find its footing as the crux of the plot, the pair’s planning of Kim’s assassination, comes to the forefront of the story. Almost immediately, the jokes improve. There are still several that miss, but a lot more hit and the film continues to gradually become funnier the deeper into the plot it gets. This is in large part because of the sheer audacity and uniqueness of the story, which allows for some neat comedic set-ups, even if they don’t all work. I don’t mean to suggest this is some wild departure from Rogen’s other comedies because that isn’t the case, in fact if you haven’t liked the man’s previous entries you’re not gonna like this one either. Still, there is certainly some creativity on display here.

A big part of the reason the film improves once Dave and Aaron arrive in North Korea is because of Randall Park’s performance as Kim Jong-un. Park plays the famous dictator as a vulnerable and insecure man-child who essentially just wants to be loved. The very concept of portraying a vicious and vile leader in such a jovial way leads to some strong laughs, and Park himself has great comedic timing. James Franco is also pretty funny as the idiot talk show host, though some of the scripts weaker jokes do rub come from his character. Rogen himself is playing the same character he always plays, but he plays it well and his straight man is a welcome addition with every other character being so zany. The film also does touch on some interesting ideas in regards to dictatorships. As the film goes, the characters eventually realize killing Kim is something of a pointless goal and decide instead their mission should be to expose him as a weak and flawed human being, proving to North Korean citizens that he is no higher power. This may not seem a wildly brilliant or original story turn, but it’s more thoughtful than I would have expected so kudos for that. In a bizarre way, the film’s climactic moments actually seem to matter in that regard.

I enjoyed The Interview, but it’s not something I can really defend too passionately either. The direction is definitely very flawed and I really hope Rogen and Goldberg are able to tighten their craft for their next effort. Additionally, the script has a lot of really lame jokes that fall completely flat due to lack of creativity and just plain stupidity. Yet even so, I did find a lot of the jokes did work, I liked the cast, and I think the filmmakers hearts where the right place to poke fun at such an inherently dark and horrible real world situation. This never deserved to drum up such controversy, but it’s a fun movie and is the most daring comedy of the year, despite its shortcomings.

B-

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