MOVIE REVIEW: ‘The Interview’ Disappoints

The-Interview-Movie-Review

Film: The Interview
Starring: James Franco, Seth Rogen
Directed by: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg

All controversy and media hype aside, The Interview is another hit-and-miss comedy with more budget than brains.

Seth Rogen and James Franco have long cemented their place in Hollywood history as one of the premier comedic duos. Ever since their time roaming the halls in Freaks And Geeks, these two funny men have been rising through the Tinseltown ranks whether together or apart. The times they have worked together have been, for the most part, incredibly successful. They’ve also been incredibly unique, placing the two best friends in every situation from an epic quest for weed (Pineapple Express), to a hilarious take on the end of the world (This Is The End). Though The Interview may be the most reality-based entry in their growing list of adventures, it’s also the most lackluster, and leads me to wonder if the reign of Rogen-centric humor may soon be coming to an end.

TV host Dave Skylark and his producer Aaron Rapoport have spent the past decade becoming the biggest names in celebrity journalism. Together they have created one of the most successful entertainment news programs in television history, all of which was earned on the backs of A-listers who were willing to share their deepest secrets. Rapoport is happy with his accomplishments, but he cannot help feeling like he and Skylark have become jokes in the world of news, especially among their peers. He wants to cover real news, while Skylark wants to continue earning big ratings. This drives a wedge between the friends, but they quickly come together once more upon learning that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un is a fan of their show. They request an interview and, as the title suggests, the so-called supreme leader of North Korea agrees.

Before the pair’s adventure can begin, Skylark and Rapoport are detained by the US government and asked to accept the difficult task of assassinating Kim Jong-Un. Neither have any training, but they agree anyway. You might think this would lead to an extended training sequence filled with boot camp based humor, but that could not be further from the truth. There is no time for proper training. The pair have days to prepare, and they make the most of what they have available to them. Everything else, including understanding basic social norms, is up to them. Lizzy Caplan enters the film at this point, but she’s largely underutilized even though she appears randomly throughout the film.

I hate to pull too heavily from the well of cliche phrases, but The Interview is proof that almost every comedic fish out of water story is essentially the same. Once our leads arrive in North Korea, their actions quickly turn to highlighting every difference between their culture and the new one they’re just discovering. This works, to an extent, but often feels like child’s play when compared to the bigger, far more interesting ideas brought to life in previous Rogen/Franco journeys. It’s all so obvious, and though some laughs are derived from the tired material, nothing feels necessarily fresh.

The one thing about North Korea that does prove to be consistently entertaining is the portrayal of Kim Jong-Un delivered by Randall Park. His work has been overshadowed up to this point by the selling power of the film’s leads, but he brings just as many laughs, if not more, than either Rogen or Franco can claim. Tackling a living person is never an easy challenge, especially when so little is known about the person, but Park finds a way to present Jong-Un that is hysterical and surprisingly layered. You never know what he is going to do or say next, which adds a bit of surprise to an otherwise obvious second and third act.

Speaking of the third act, The Interview tries to follow the This Is The End route of pushing everything to the extreme limit. Unfortunately, this formula does not work as well a second time around, as it changes the entire pace and tone of the film for a chase sequence that only exists to help our heroes have a big finale. You never fear for the livelihood of Skylark or Rapoport at any point in the first seventy minutes, so why try and ramp up a false sense of tension for one lackluster gag? It makes very little sense in the context of the film, and it doesn’t create the orgasmic sense of resolution you feel the filmmakers were hoping to achieve. It’s a complete miss.

Franco takes the reigns for most of the film, as he and Kim Jong-Un spend the majority of screen time together while Rogen’s character works to swoon a beautiful North Korean woman (which includes a terrific performance from Diana Bang). It’s nice to see him lead a comedic film, but there’s too many throwaway riff bits and too few big laughs to make anything he says or does all that memorable. For what it’s worth, it is the riffing between he and Rogen, then later he and Park, that keep the film funny when larger gags fall flat.

The controversy surrounding The Interview will no doubt outlive the adoration the film receives, even from the actors’ most die-hard fans, but still a part of me cannot deny its need to be seen. It’s neither the best nor worst adventure Rogen and Franco have embarked upon, but it is almost entirely forgettable. That said, it’s one of few films that has transcended the world of general features to become something akin to an event film, and that alone makes it worth a watch. Keep your expectation low and you might have fun. Expect something worthy of pissing off a dictator and you’ll be sadly disappointed.

GRADE: C-

Review written by James Shotwell

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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