Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen
Dan Sterling (screenplay), Seth Rogen (story)
Seth Rogen, James Franco
December 24, 2014 (Theatrical)
December 24, 2014 (VOD)
January 24, 2014 (Netflix)
Dave Skylark and producer Aaron Rapoport run the celebrity tabloid show "Skylark Tonight." When they land an interview with a surprise fan, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, they are recruited by the CIA to turn their trip to Pyongyang into an assassination mission.
For all the controversy it has stirred up, The Interview is almost completely void of biting social commentary or satire. Instead, it’s almost two solid hours of laughs and a refreshing level of self-awareness that other similar movies completely miss the point on. Obviously it’s worth saying that if you have seen a movie with Seth Rogen in it before and you didn’t like it, chances are you won’t like The Interview. It’s a big silly comedy that knows exactly what it is and it spends the entire runtime pelting you with effective, quick-hitting jokes.
The story of the film is exactly what you have heard after months of rabbling out of North Korea. A campy television host and his producer are tasked with killing the leader of the hermit nation when they score an interview with him. Like any similar Seth Rogen film (or Judd Apatow, who he has worked with and clearly draws a ton of inspiration from), the two screw every single thing up along the way with some genuinely gut-busting circumstances. Through all their meandering, complete screw ups, and honeydicking around, they do eventually manage to complete their mission. To be completely fair, the story is as paper thin as it sounds, and it mostly doesn’t even matter in the end.
From the very first scene of the film that has host Dave Skylark (played by James Franco) interviewing Eminem who nonchalantly reveals that he’s gay, to interviewing Rob Lowe who reveals that he is “secretly bald,” The Interview is pure goofyness and schoolyard humor all the way through. There is never a moment in its 112-minute runtime where it forgets what it is, and I cannot express how important that is in a film like this. Other than a couple parts where it is obviously part of the joke, there is no droopy music and overly-emotional scene breaking up the constant stream of riffs. Every situation that Franco and Rogen find themselves in are full of instantly quotable lines that just hit that right angle of comedy that will likely make you laugh despite yourself. There are a few moments where jokes are drawn out just slightly too long, but it’s never too bad, and for the most part, they are a perfect length.
I also really appreciate how everyone in the film is just the right amount of stupid. Skylark and his producer Aaron Rappaport (played by Seth Rogen) are working with the CIA in order to take out Kim Jong-Un, and they all feel on a relatively even playing field. It’s not the super-intelligent CIA wondering why these two idiots they sent into North Korea to solve their problems happen to be idiots. They all seem to be aware that the two are going to screw up every step of the way, and they are there to comedically help them succeed.
As I mentioned in the first paragraph, this is not a smart film. It is not a vessel for directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg to satirize or comment how terrible the situation in North Korea is, or the state of reality television as a whole. If you’re judging The Interview purely on it trying to be a social commentary, of course it’s going to be instantly disliked. But then again, if you do that, maybe you need to re-evaluate how you’re looking at films if you can’t go into them without imprinting your own ideals on them before even seeing them.
It’s the type of film where you can watch any 10-minute segment and still get a laugh, which can be good or bad depending on how much you care about a connecting story or long-running jokes.
Throughout the film, there is also a surprising level of innocence to the jokes. It would have been easy in a lot of moments for The Interview to try and go straight for shock value. Things going in, and coming out of certain orifices come to mind as spots where another less competently made comedy would have resorted to just trying to gross the audience out into laughing. Instead, Rogen keeps the film’s tone on-point every step of the way. Even when the end of it turned to grindhouse levels of violence, there was a constant silliness to it that kept the film light enough for the jokes to hit but not feel out of place.
There is a definite character arc for Dave Skylark and Aaron Rappaport, but it happens in the background to the comedy being played out on screen. In general, I really hated Skylark at the beginning. Not in a way where it seemed like I was supposed to dislike him, but Franco just overacts so hard in his first few interviews. Luckily, as the movie progresses, he quickly evens out into a real character that has a great chemistry with Rappaport and eventually Kim Jong-Un himself.
Aside from Franco’s typical overacting in parts, performances in the film were pretty spot on. Randall Park hit it out of the stadium with his portrayal of an exaggerated Jong-Un. He was kept far enough away from the real dictator’s personality so that it never felt like the film was trying to smartly parody him, but he was never quite so bizarre that it threw off the jokes and tone of the film. All of the actors in The Interview have a deep history of working with each other (this is Franco and Rogen’s fifth movie together and seemingly everyone has worked with one of them in the past) and it shows. The entire cast has a great chemistry and comedic timing, it’s obvious throughout the film that the group had a fun time making it, and all that goes a long way in a totally goofy comedy like this.
Overall, I greatly enjoyed my time watching the film and I have a feeling this is going to reach cult status in the coming years. Aside from the obvious hype surrounding it from North Korea, it’s going to sit as a movie that viewers feel they are “too smart for” then, in a few years when everything is not so on the nose, many will come around to realize just how well-written and well-executed the comedy in it really is.