It was a movie that never expected to lead breaking news updates on CNN, but by now we all know the fascinating journey that caused The Interview to debut in limited release and not its planned wide release Christmas Day. It meant this blogger viewed it on YouTube and not a large chain theater. And now I can finally strip away all the hype and controversy and simply let you know my feelings on the picture itself.
The verdict? Mixed. Quite mixed. The Interview is director Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s follow-up to their very successful (and better) first effort This is the End. As you’ve perhaps heard, it involves a plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (Randall Park). The plan? Take little respected entertainment interviewer Dave Skylark (James Franco) and his producer Aaron (Rogen) to the homeland of Jong-un for a fluff interview and use the situation to take him out. The CIA is involved, including Lizzy Caplan (from Showtime’s Masters of Sex) as an operative.
Of course, not all goes as planned. Aaron develops a crush on Sook (Diana Bang), one of Kim’s top communications officials. Dave begins to bond with Kim over sex, drugs, Katy Perry (yep, you read it right), and their mutual perceived lack of respectability. In essence, Dave receives the real life Dennis Rodman treatment from the Supreme Leader which leads him to question whether Kim is really that bad of a guy.
Since this is a work from Rogen and his head collaborator Goldberg, we have an abundance of gross out gags. If you guessed Rogen has to shove a top secret device up his rectum at one point – take a shot! Some of the gags work while many others are all too familiar and fall flat. Rogen is his typical self, but he brings his teddy bear charm to a satisfactory level. Franco is another story. He’s a talented performer who is hit or miss in comedies. Here, his character’s smarmy demeanor comes off more off putting than humorous.
The Interview is ultimately not overly concerned with making grand political statements and more focused on hard R rated sight gags. The character of Kim, played with gusto by Park, is chock full of Daddy issues and an inferiority complex. There’s funny moments with him (his obsession with the aforementioned Perry is good for some belly laughs), but there’s nothing here that Team America: World Police didn’t handle on a more highly elevated satirical level. Early snippets of Skylark’s interviews with Eminem and Rob Lowe actually provide the biggest guffaws and they have nothing to do with the eventual plot.
There’s little doubt The Interview will be remembered more for its generated headlines with the Sony hack and North Korean government reaction that what is up on the screen. For fans of Rogen and Goldberg’s brand of humor, there’s just enough worthwhile to watch. However, they’ve done better work and while nothing they’ve made before or since is likely to capture worldwide media attention – The Interview seems bound to be regarded as a so-so entry in their filmography.
**1/2 (out of four)