Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s The Interview is very much exactly the film that you think it is. It’s packed to the brim with crude jokes, most involving Seth Rogen, James Franco, and/or Kim Jong-Un’s anus or penis, and it manages to be energetic, ridiculous and genuinely laugh-out-loud funny. But it’s now impossible to talk about the film without mentioning the Sony hack and controversial release plan changes that occurred as a result of it. Does The Interview match up to all of the hype and furor that has surrounded the film? No - but it never intended to. The Interview was created as a fun comedy vehicle for Franco and Rogen that could be just a bit of silly escapism, not an apocalypse threatening catalyst that provokes discussions about freedom of speech across the globe.
James Franco and Seth Rogen are at the heart of everything that is good about The Interview - of which there is a lot. The first hour of the film is wonderfully woven as it sets up the film’s premise while also providing a steady stream of jokes that, while stupid, you really can’t help but laugh at. Based on a script written Dan Sterling, the film revolves around James Franco’s Dave Skylark - a loveable celebrity journalist who has risen to prominence by reporting on stories like Rob Lowe being bald and Matthew McConaughey fucking a goat – and Seth Rogen’s Aaron Rapaport – Skylark’s producer, who is depressed that he has sold out by focusing his professional attention on such stories.
After an old college chum, who now works on 60 Minutes, lambasts Rapaport’s career at a party, Rapoport decides that he will shift focus and only tackle genuine news stories. This leads Skylark to discover that Kim Jong-un is a huge fan of their show, and soon plans are made for the pair to travel to North Korea to conduct an interview with the Supreme Leader. When the CIA become aware of this unique chance for a U.S. citizen to be in the vicinity of Kim Jong-un, though, they orchestrate a plan for our two protagonists to assassinate the dictator. And that’s when the silliness truly begins.
The Interview really wouldn’t work if it starred anyone else other than James Franco and Seth Rogen. Their adorably dim-witted patter now has a Bob Hope and Bing Crosby/Laurel and Hardy zing to it, and The Interview certainly plays off the idea – knowing that it is the real gold. The comedy’s finest and funniest moments come when we see Franco and Rogen comically sparring with each other. Each scenario, from the CIA’s efforts to teach the pair exactly how they will kill Kim Jong-un, to their calamitous arrival in Pyongyang, to the scenarios that result in Rapoport being stripped and searched by Korean armed guards, are each more absurd, ridiculous and hilarious than the last.
Unfortunately The Interview’s laugh-rate is severely hampered with the introduction of Randall Park’s Kim Jong-un, who actively drives a wedge between Rapaport and Skylark – resulting in Franco and Rogen naturally spending a lot less on-screen together. That’s not meant as a criticism of Randall Park, as his complex portrayal of the nuclear-arm wielding nut-job shows him as both affable and insane. There are several nice touches of characterization – like an expressed need to impress everyone around him, and the explanation that he is simply a by-product of the environment he grew up in – and these all add depth and intrigue to the character. His presence does interrupt the excellent Rogen-Franco flow, however, and the movie suffers as a result.
On beyond its split protagonists, The Interview also finds itself floundering in the final act. A tepid sex-scene that aims to be bizarre; Rapaport and a North Korean soldier going toe-to-toe in literally nail-biting fashion; and an explosive final shoot-out go for gore and shock rather than genuine laughs. While they may sound eventful and interesting, it’s unfortunate that none of the sequences pack the originality, tension and hilarity that was present in Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s directorial debut, This Is The End.
From a larger perspective, The Interview deserves kudos for its ballsy depiction of Kim Jong-un and North Korea. There isn’t exactly a full exploration of the true devastation that reigns in the country, as most of the plot set in the Asian nation is limited to the main palace, but credit must still be given for a disturbingly prescient opening that not only refers to Kim Jong-un as a “modern day Hitler,” but also makes note of North Korea’s worrisome nuclear capacity. These comments feel more on the nose than ever now, and it’s to The Interview’s credit that despite the cloud of turmoil and confusion that has surrounded its release, it still manages to be funny. It’s a shame that it will never be truly remembered for that fact.