The Interview (2015)
I don’t need to tell you about the furore surrounding this one. Like many people, I found myself wanting to check out the infamous film after it looked like Sony weren’t going to release it. I think it was the forbidden fruit angle. Anyway, all of that quietened down and Sony released it online and in select theatres in the U.S. and it made its way to these rainy shores sometime last week. Being more committed to writing as of late, I figured The Interview was at least worth checking out to see if it was good once the almighty international shitstorm died down. Spoiler: it’s pretty mediocre.
James Franco plays Dave Skylark, a vacuous celebrity talk show host. Seth Rogen plays his producer, unhappy with the shallow nature of the programming. The pair learn that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un (Randall Park) is a big fan of the show and, seeing a chance to score some professional kudos, the pair contact NK’s press offices to set up an interview. Their request accepted, Skylark and Rapaport pack their bags for Pyongyang and are contacted by Agent Lacey (Lizzy Caplan), a CIA agent who recruits the duo to assassinate the mental despot whilst they’re over there. The script isn’t great. Whilst there is proper storytelling going on (foreshadowing, actual character arcs) a lot of the jokes suffer from the “throwing spaghetti at a wall and seeing what sticks” approach. I laughed several times during the film, but I’m more willing to put that down to the buckshot nature of it all, rather than properly crafted jokes. The comedy is broad and vulgar, as you’d expect. I don’t want to come across as some snooty dick who thinks he’s above poop jokes (and there are sooo many in the film). I enjoyed This Is the End a hell of a lot and I liked Rogen’s previous effort Bad Neighbours (simply “Neighbours” in non-UK territories). A lot of the gags in The Interview just seemed quite lazy. I know that now the question is “well, what did you expect?” Well, something a little better than this.
As much as I like James Franco, I’m not sure what the hell he’s doing as Dave Skylark. It’s an incredibly over-the-top tryhard performance and it sunk more than a few comedic moments. The guy can be incredibly funny and has proven so in the aforementioned This Is the End and Pineapple Express. It’s weirdly misjudged. Rogen plays a standard Rogen role, so he balances out some of the Skylark nonsense. MVPs of the film are Randall Park and Diana Bang. Park actually makes you like the Katy Perry liking murderer and makes him seem like someone you’d definitely invite to a night out. Diana Bang also does great work as Sook, Un’s propaganda minister. They’re both layered performances and it elevates the film considerably when they’re both introduced.
When I say the humour’s “broad”, I really mean it. You’re not going to get much more than dick jokes. That’s fine, but the quality of said dick jokes pales in comparison to something like This Is the End. Some of the stuff seemed incredibly dated too. I mean, Lord of the Rings references in a 2014 film, really? They’re not even good ones. Also, nice of them to use Katy Perry’s “Firework” – a song second only to Smash Mouth’s “All Star” in terms of soundtrack overusage. Whilst there are moments that do work, I found myself rolling my eyes at every lazy gag and every hacky joke. For its inflammatory central conceit, the film seems to be happy with sticking to old hat jokes. There’s one scene where Agent Lacey tells the duo she wants them to “take (Kim Jong Un) out”. At this point, the screen may as well flashed up some sing-a-long lyrics at the bottom, complete with bouncing ball. I refuse to believe that there was anyone in the cinema who didn’t know that the pair would misconstrue what she was saying and that the next line would amount to something like “…for drinks?” or “for dinner?”. It’s an incredibly simple joke but they continue riffing on it for a whole minute. A very long feeling minute. There’s no real satire to the film. Just the point that North Korea is weird and bad. Not sure about you, but I didn’t need to slap down the best part of a tenner for that incredible insight. Again, yeah, what did I expect from a Rogen/Franco film? Well, what’s the frigging point of having a controversial plot if you’re going to squander opportunities to actually say something?
The Interview is just about passable. There are hints of a much better script underneath all the lunkhead humour. I will say this, I wasn’t bored at any point, but I really felt like I should be laughing a lot more than I actually did. I’ll shakily recommend it because of the super-subjective nature of comedy, but it’s not something I’d be confident enough in to shout it from the rooftops.