Thursday, March 12, 2015

Movie Review: The Interview (2014)

The Interview (2014)
Reprinted from The Young Folks as posted on December 27, 2014

Is it worth it to make a movie that will anger one of the more dangerous world leaders out there? Is the movie even good enough to justify all the trouble it caused leading up to its eventual yet warped release? Whatever the answers are to those questions, The Interview has finally been made available to the American public for anyone who wishes to see it, and that’s the most important thing. Whether you decide to watch the new Seth Rogen and James Franco collaboration through video on demand or the few theaters that decided to play the movie, know that The Interview may not represent a low point for the duo, but it also doesn’t reach the madcap delights of last year’s This is the End.

If you haven’t seen the trailers then surely you’ve already heard of the premise through the national news: Franco and Rogen run a fluff celebrity talk show and are asked to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un by the C.I.A. after he grants them an interview opportunity. Before making its way across the Pacific, The Interview establishes itself as a light skewering of the media. Satirical jabs at the news and “what the people want” carry the story through its initial setup without cutting too deep at their subjects, and the movie eventually shifts gears to full-on farce once the C.I.A. enters the picture.


Interestingly enough, there seems to be a larger emphasis on scripted humor than on the improv work that usually characterizes Rogen and co-writer/director Evan Goldberg’s other movies. There’s a rather large amount of time spent on setups for future punchlines; it’s just too bad that many of these setups aren’t as strong as what they eventually build to, leaving the movie feeling lopsided. Thankfully things pick up once the plot arrives at Kim Jong-un’s forest stronghold. While Franco and Rogen’s comic chemistry is certainly palpable, it’s when Franco’s dimwit character Dave Skylark bonds with Kim that the movie finds its footing.

If nothing else, Randall Park just about steals the entire movie once he makes his entrance as the Supreme Leader. He finds pathos and humanity within the mad man, and Kim’s interactions with Skylark recall that of a fan awkwardly meeting a celebrity they admire greatly. The shadow of his late father hangs over the character, who feels like he has big shoes to fill as everyone looks to him for leadership at such a young age. Creating a more layered villain out of a real-life person who could easily be played broad and one-dimensionally crazed is among the movie’s unexpected pleasures.

Randall Park

Despite the scattershot nature of the overall movie, there are more than a few laugh-out- loud scenes that stand out. Unfortunately, a lot of the movie’s funnier lines were spoiled in the trailers, but one of those scenes that still manages to hit is the missile-up-the-butt scene, notably because Franco, Rogen, and (underused) costar Lizzy Caplan really sell their interactions/reactions. And once the titular interview eventually approaches, Rogen and Goldberg ramp it up to such absurdist extremes that it’s hard not to be pulled into the over-the-top farce of it all.

The concluding half hour moves with a swiftness and energy that the rest of The Interview could have used more of. Franco in particular gets plenty of time to riff out his lines in the early going to tiring effect, exaggerating Skylark’s idiocy to the point of annoyance. There’s a forced quality to his performance that often mirrors the film it’s a part of: spraying buckshot in multiple directions where a more focused approach would have served better. The Interview often hits its targets and his them hard, figuratively and literally, but it almost just as often ends up shooting at air.

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