Thursday, January 1, 2015

Movie Review: The Interview

The Interview
Directed by:  Evan Goldberg & Seth Rogen.
Written by: Dan Sterling & Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg.
Starring: James Franco (Dave Skylark), Seth Rogen (Aaron Rapaport), Lizzy Caplan (Agent Lacey), Randall Park (Kim Jong-un), Diana Bang (Sook), Timothy Simons (Malcolm), Reese Alexander (Agent Botwin), James Yi (Officer Koh), Paul Bae (Officer Yu), Geoff Gustafson (Cole), Dominique Lalonde (Jackie), Anesha Bailey (Janet), Anders Holm (Jake), Charles Rahi Chun (General Jong).

I cannot help but wonder what future generations will make of The Interview. The film caused an international incident because it is a fictionalized story about an assassination attempt on the real North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, who was none too pleased about it. What followed has now passed into movie lore – a hack on Sony`s system, which ended up humiliating the company, and generated threats about what would happen if the movie was released. The film was pulled from theaters just days before it was to be released – and then after a public outcry, went for a limited release instead, as well as VOD release for everyone in North America. The whole controversy around the movie won’t soon be forgotten – the movie itself however probably will. It isn’t a very funny comedy – and doesn’t really have any insight into anything either. At least when Chaplin stirred controversy with The Great Dictator (1940) – where he took direct shots at Adolf Hitler, and caused an international stir, he actually made a masterpiece. The Interview on the other hand is just another stupid comedy – that isn’t really all that funny.

The film is about David Skylark (James Franco), a shallow celebrity talk show host, and his producer Aaron (Seth Rogen), who once wanted to do real journalism, and is now stuck producing a show where they get Rob Lowe to show his bald head, and try desperately to interview a goat who may have been fucked by Matthew McConaughey. But then Aaron reads in the New York Times that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is a fan of their show – and thinks that perhaps if he could arrange an interview with the man, than people would have to take him seriously. He reaches out, and it turns out Kim is interested – and invites him and David to North Korea to give the interview. Before they can go however they are recruited by the CIA, fronted by Agent Lacey (Lizzy Caplan) – who has a plan where David can assassinate Kim, without anyone knowing what really happened.

No one should be surprised that The Interview is a stupid comedy, with more jokes about erections and feces that international politics. The film was directed by Rogen and Evan Goldberg, who directed last years (much, much better) This is the End, and co-wrote Superbad together. Both of those films were stupid comedies as well – but they were `smart stupid`, and had the advantage of being very funny. The Interview isn’t.

Part of that is probably because Rogen and Franco have returned to this well one too many times. The two have an easy chemistry together – but this time, it feels forced. This is, in part, because Franco seems to be trying too hard. It isn’t enough for him to make Skylark into an imbecile – he goes so far over the top that his character is impossible to take the least bit seriously. Franco, who can be excellent (he deserved an Oscar for Spring Breakers), sometimes makes strange choices – and this is one of them. Rogen seems to try and overcompensate – as he basically sleepwalks through his role as Aaron. The two best performances, by far, are by Diana Bang, as Sook – Kim Jong-un's minion, who has the hots the Aaron, and by Randall Park, as Kim himself. He makes his Kim as ridiculous as Franco's Dave – but in a more believably vein. He's basically a shallow, egomaniac with daddy issues. It’s actually a very good performance.
But not much else about the film really works. There are a few sporadic laughs sprinkled throughout the film – but nothing that rises to the level of Rogen & Goldberg's previous work – and nothing to really make The Interview worth seeing. And yet, it will be seen by a lot of people – all of whom want to see what all the fuss is about. The sad truth is that it was much ado about nothing.

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