The Interview Review
Reviewed by Patrick Kavanagh-Sproull.
I liked the interview. I did not, however, like The Interview. To clarify: Seth Rogen and James Franco’s ballsy new comedy (with a premise as bold as killing North Korea’s notoriously mercurial dictator, it had to be) is fun once it reaches its eponymous confrontation: the crux of the whole thing. Regrettably, however, it takes far too long about it with the actual televised interview occurring roughly three quarters into a film just shy of the two-hour mark. It’s unfortunate that The Interview really gets entertaining so close to its ending.
There are few films I have seen released in the last few years with such titanic publicity. The Interview made headlines in December when Sony Pictures Entertainment, still reeling in the aftermath of a massive cyber-assault, pulled the Franco and Rogen-fronted film from its Christmas Day release only to go back on their decision a short while later. Suddenly Obama stepped in and there was uproar in the media world – quite rightly, too – about North Korea censoring the West’s content. Suddenly the whole world wanted to see it and that means The Interview will go down in the history books but not as the razor-sharp critique of North Korean totalitarianism many hoped it would be.
The Interview sees blowhard celebrity talk-show host Dave Skylark (James Franco) discover that one of his biggest fans is none other than Kim Jong-un (Randall Park). Thinking solely of the views his show would get, Skylark has his goofy producer, Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen) fix up an interview with Jong-un’s steely assistant, Sook (Diana Bang) only for the CIA to intervene and dragoon Rapoport and Skylark into assassinating one of the most volatile men on the planet. It’s a gutsy premise for a mainstream Hollywood comedy (although that fact could be argued after its US nationwide release was curtailed) and at times it feels like The Interview was made just to create waves purely because it’s a watery satire at best. Making a film about the killing of Kim Jong-un is something many comedians, I’m sure, have dreamed about and, sadly, it really doesn’t work in the hands of Rogen and Franco. There are more witty comics out there who could have turned The Interview into something akin to Borat or Team America: World Police rather than this stupidly imbecilic, lewd comedy.
While Rogen and Franco are game (the former slipping into the pleasant everyman archetype once again; the latter doing what James Franco does best), the real stars of The Interview are those representing North Korea. Diana Bang and Randall Park are terrific as the ruler and his henchwoman respectively with Bang in particular a highlight. She has unexpectedly brilliant chemistry with Seth Rogen and it’s a shame that Sook is given such limited screen-time although she is, however, a minor player in the whole operation. Park on the other hand is a joy to watch as the dictator, running the whole gamut from doltish lad to mouth-foaming megalomaniac, and I’m pleased The Interview was released in the end because this has the makings of Park’s breakthrough role.
My main gripe with The Interview is that Rogen and Franco simply didn’t have the conviction to embrace their risky premise. As I’ve said, murdering the world’s most feared leader is a concept that opens up a veritable mine of gags and rather than digging to the core, Franco and Rogen merely scratch the surface, smothering a lot of the satire with toilet humour and slapstick. What’s more of a worry is that Kim Jong-un isn’t actually depicted as the bad guy for the majority of the run-time and while it’s fair that he should have both light and shade, it’s uncomfortable to watch Skylark spend a lot of the film happily rubbing shoulders and hobnobbing with one of the most cut-throat world leaders alive today. Jong-un’s deceitful and wicked manner is eventually revealed (and Park is splendid in all his scenes) but it’s far too late, and already Rogen and Franco have lost oodles of opportunities to aim jibes at the North Korean dictatorship.
Notwithstanding the above, I won’t begrudge the fact The Interview isn’t without its high points particularly in the third act. Once the titular meeting goes through, the consequences are deliciously good fun and look out for one surprisingly tense sequence, which includes the funniest use of a Katy Perry track I’ve ever seen. Moreover, at one point Skylark is partnered with a puppy and there’s something both amusing and aw-inducing about seeing James Franco invest his heart into a little beagle.
In summary, The Interview is enjoyable as a mindless, scatological Hollywood comedy but barely registers as a satire. While it does have its moments, there are simply not enough of them and Seth Rogen and James Franco squander their audacious concept by stifling any parody under a deluge of bawdy, silly gags.