Published on February 12th, 2015 | by Damien Straker
The Interview – Film Review
Reviewed by Damien Straker on February 11th, 2015
Sony Pictures presents a film directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg
Produced by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, James Weaver and James Franco
Screenplay by Dan Sterling
Starring: James Franco, Seth Rogen, Lizzy Caplan and Randall Park
Music by Henry Jackman
Cinematography: Brandon Trost
Edited by Zene Baker and Evan Henke
Running Time: 112 minutes
Release Date: February 12th, 2015
This is what the world almost turned to hell for? The Interview is the film Kim Jong-un threatened to bomb American cinemas over and which lead North Korea to being suspected of Sony’s hacking scandal. It’s depressing unfunny and undeserving of its attention. The film is intentionally controversial for its plot concerning a planned assassination of Kim Jong-un. It’s also predictably offensive to all demographics and people of good taste. Comedy is subjective and admittedly this isn’t my brand of comedy. But will anyone vouch for the movie being clever? Old fashioned comedies are considered prudish today because they never openly relished jokes about bodily functions and sex. Given the sensitivity of the period writers were forced to be clever and hide double entendres beneath the dialogue. People had to think about what was being said and how it was delivered. We don’t have to do any work here. The screenplay by Dan Sterling is lowbrow and obnoxious, banking heavily on scatological humour and bodily functions too embarrassing for adolescents to endure. The stars of the film James Franco and Seth Rogen aren’t young or stupid. Rogen, thirty-two, is an experienced writer and co-directed the film with Evan Goldberg. They collaborated on Superbad, Pineapple Express and This is the End together. Franco is thirty-six and has an MFA from Columbia University and a PhD from Yale University. Both men endorsed the film by producing it but haven’t demanded enough from the undernourished screenplay.
Idiots behaving badly are a great staple of comedy but there’s no reason to care about either Franco or Rogen’s characters. Neither has a backstory and Franco is poorly directed and allowed to run wild. Playing entertainment show host Dave Skylark, he’s trying to best Jim Carrey’s work from the 90s. But he’s so unlikable and charmless because every expression in his face is overdone, like he can’t stand being unnoticed for half a scene. Rogen blandly plays depressed producer Aaron Rapaport, who laments not being taken seriously because someone he grew up with is conducting serious interviews on 60 Minutes. These two half-sketches decide they’ll gain validation by interviewing Kim Jong-un (Randall Park), a fan of their show Skylark Tonight. The film thinks pop references like Katy Perry, The Lord of the Rings and cameos by Eminem and Rob Lowe are comedy gold. But there aren’t enough jokes of its own. The earlier a film draws on a cameo the worse it’s going to be and this film opens with Eminem admitting he’s gay. The Interview is also an action spy movie and littered with holes. Franco and Rogen are approached by CIA Agent Lacey (Lizzy Caplan) who tells them to assassinate the North Korean leader using a poisonous tape placed on the palm of the hand. This film is not only stupid but has no respect for logic. If the poison works as slowly as it does on a guard, how do they figure they’ll be allowed to leave if Kim Jong-un dies on their watch? The North Koreans are expectantly trigger happy and paranoid but also comfortable letting Skylark ride in a tank alone with Kim where he’d be vulnerable. Meanwhile, the CIA has no trouble dropping packages into enemy territory but a tiny piece of tape is their only method for taking out their target. It goes on. It can’t even keep trace of its main characters because after a terribly unfunny sequence involving Aaron’s rear, Agent Lacey disappears for almost the rest of the movie.
The film wastes one potentially good idea. A turning point in the story is how Skylark starts changing his mind and doubts murdering Kim after he’s shown a good time. Their friendship is laced with juvenile homoerotic undertones (Kim Jong-un like margaritas and the Katy Perry song “Firework”) but it holds a bit of our attention as to what choice Skylark will make in the actual interview. Why couldn’t the film be more inventive with this idea though? For example, it could have parodied the way basketball player Dennis Rodman has over a long time become a close friend of Kim Jong-un. Imagine if the film pursued this instead of giving us a conventionally mindless last quarter involving violence, explosions, dismembered fingers and a tank ride. The action is typical of the film adding parts to the narrative out of complacency and checklists, not because it cares about them. There’s a romance late in the film between Rogen and a female guard but is it valuable to anyone? Ultimately, the film doesn’t work because it’s lazy and unfunny. Franco is smart but needs good direction like in 127 Hours. He’s surrounded by people who’ve worked together frequently and think they’re all funny. Adam Sandler is a good example of why that’s a dangerous in Hollywood. Friends, egos and backslapping make everyone too complacent for retakes or rewrites. But as crass as the film is, we survived any major damage from the film. If we had all met our fate over The Interview, war really would be indefensibly senseless.
Summary: If we had all met our fate over The Interview, war really would be indefensibly senseless.