Wow. Talk about an emotional rollercoaster. We’re all aware of the long, strange trip The Interview has taken on its journey to release; pushed back from its original October release date to Christmas Day, only to be cancelled indefinitely in the wake of threats of terrorism, and then rescheduled again at about 300 theaters across the country a week or so later. It is still unclear what the exact motive was behind the actions of hacker group Guardians of Peace, though the government and popular opinion count North Korea as the source of the problems for film studio Sony. Conspiracy theories declaring Sony themselves the culprit belong in the same garbage bin as 9/11 truthers and those still waiting to see Obama’s birth certificate, but Sony should be thanking whoever did do the deed, as it only raised interest in the latest ridiuclous comedy from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.
Rogen and regular cohort James Franco star as Aaron Rapoport and Dave Skylark, the producer and host respectively of a tabloid interview show called Skylark Tonight. After learning that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un (Randall Park) is a fan of the show, the two arrange for an interview with the reclusive leader. Seeing a rich opportunity, Agent Lacey (Lizzy Caplan) of the CIA tasks the inept men with assassinating the ruler of North Korea, a job the two may not be capable of accomplishing, even if they are willing.
As with all comedy, the effectiveness is entirely subjective. For those who enjoy the work of this crew (This Is the End, Superbad, Pineapple Express), The Interview will surely be just as entertaining. The movie is the same kind of “bromantic” comedy that Rogen and Goldberg have been producing throughout their career together. So it comes with all of the trappings you might expect: improvised dialogue, genital humor, celebrity cameos, slight instances of homophobia and misogyny – though I may not be the best judge of how offensive those last two are in this particular case.
The movie is goofy, and Franco’s performance especially reflects that. His turn as Dave Skylark is bigger than almost anything he has done, but it is appropriate as the character possesses a larger personality and ego than even Franco himself. The actor – who can be known to take himself too seriously in at least half of the hundred or so projects that he undertakes each year – always manages to unwind and get silly when working with Rogen and company, and that has yielded some of his best work of the last ten years. The Interview is no exception, as he relishes one-upping Park when it comes to whose character is more laughably absurd.
Park’s portrayal of Kim Jong-un is surprisingly layered, as is the supporting performance by Diana Bang as Kim’s propaganda monitor. While neither is by any means award-worthy, they really help drive the film, which basically lays out its plot and then putters around until the final action scene.
Rogen and Goldberg are establishing themselves as action-comedy auteurs, in the same vein as Phil Lord and Christoher Miller (The Lego Movie, 21 and 22 Jump Street), though their work is not nearly as smart as the latter team’s. In fact there isn’t much of any intelligence to The Interview, from its characters to the very script. In the wake of all the controversy, people may be looking to The Interview for some kind of political message or meaningful satire; that’s not what this movie is. The Interview is a fun, tossed-off frivolity that took an outrageous premise to a conclusion that some considered too far. Perhaps it is irresponsible in that way, but comedy always soars when pushing boundaries. It won’t be remembered as one of the best comedies of all time, but The Interview is highly enjoyable. And not at all worth the trouble that came along with it.