‘The Interview’ Is Just A Comedy (Movie Review)
The Interview: 3 ½ out of 5
Dave Skylark: This is the biggest things since Frosty/Nixon!
[Note: I had no real desire to dig too far into the controversy surrounding this film, as I have been fascinated, but exhausted with keeping up with what has gone on in this surreal situation leading up to the eventual release of this film. That said, my friend Scott Mendeslon over at Forbes has written a number of pieces that go into it, including This. As it stands, I just want to write about the film.]
A small part of the world cried foul, threats were made from various sources, but here we are with the movie that presents an insane premise and matches it with the same sense of humor and themes that have made successes out of the filmmaking team that is Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. While the real-life fallout from producing The Interview was likely something the duo could not have imagined, the actual film is merely silly fun, with only hints of truly biting social commentary. That said, I know what to expect, for the most part, from Team Rogberg at this point, and while this may not be their greatest effort, it is certainly an entertaining one.
The concept is one of the simpler, yet very entertaining high concept ideas I have heard this year, as far as a comedy goes. Entertainment talk show host Dave Skylark (James Franco) and his best friend/producer, Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen), secure an interview with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (Randall Park) and are instructed by the CIA to assassinate him. This will a difficult challenge to say the least, given the nature of how North Korea’s dictator and his compound are portrayed, the method in which this assassination will supposedly be handled, and because the two assassins in question are, y’know…idiots.
Finding joy and entertainment in a movie like this means accepting what Franco and Rogen are capable of as comedic actors. They, of course, have plenty of help from their co-stars (Randall Park’s Kim Jong-un and Diana Bong as Sook, the Minister of Propaganda are particular highlights), but regardless of how inherently satirical a premise like this may seem, The Interview is much happier finding comedy in how everyone talks to each other, the details in character actions, and a gloriously, cartoonish violent ending that reminds us how these are just boys being boys in a film that has both heart and a lot of dick jokes.
The Interview is less interested in actually selling some kind of scathing indictment of North Korea, especially given how the actual situation there is easily much worse than anything we see in this film and winds up being about as politically potent as Tropic Thunder, with the difference being the namedropping of an actual political figure. Instead, much of this film focuses on silly things like the crafting of an elaborate assassination plan that obviously goes south very quickly; debating whether or not a honeypot-like seduction has been in play on multiple occasions; and of course the true meaning of friendship.
Looking at the work Rogen and Goldberg have put out together as writers and/or directors (Superbad, Pineapple Express, This is the End, and yes, The Green Hornet), the throughline involving friendship as an emotional core of their stories continues to be a large focus here in The Interview as well. It comes from two areas this time around, as Franco and Rogen’s characters are obviously dealing with each other, but the film also puts a lot of effort into crafting a relationship between Franco and Park’s Kim Jong-un. It is here that the film really goes to the limits of what these kinds of storylines can bring. Sure, This is the End pitted friends against the apocalypse, but The Interview takes people that should oppose each other in every way and turns that concept on its head for comedic purposes. If anything should ensure how fanciful this film is, it is how we see Skylark and Kim Jong-un interact with each other, as they sing pop songs and play basketball together, among other activities.
In all of this, those looking forward to this movie because they are fans of these sorts of comedies should certainly be getting what they want. Franco’s loud mouth (yet likable) idiot and Rogen’s exacerbated, but quip-ready characters are fit for this film. The jokes come fast and running gags are plentiful. It does not reach the comedic heights of some of the previous efforts from these guys, but I find myself still smiling at a lot of the sillier moments, let alone thinking back fondly to some of the gags that went a step beyond just being shock humor, because of the reactions these guys voice aloud in the moment. Basically, the film is funny enough, given that it does not ever want to really be more than a gag-fest.
There are other aspects to admire as far as the production goes, but what really matters is whether or not I found The Interview to be an enjoyable film, given the outlandish premise. “Yes” is the answer to that question and separated from the film’s real-life controversy, I was happy to get a lot of laughs out of this ridiculous comedy. It is not as scathing as it maybe could be, but it does not feel like a waste of talent either. It’s just a funny movie.
Dave Skylark: Get me that goat!