Review: 'The Interview' Not for Everyone, But Just See for Yourself
by Jeremy Kirk
December 25, 2014
Let's get the elephant in the room out of the way. The Interview is the latest comedy from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the filmmaking duo who previously brought us the screamingly hilarious This Is the End. For that reason, along with Rogen and James Franco starring, The Interview was anticipated. Then the troubles began. They've been well-documented, and the debate on who's responsible, who's to blame, and who's benefiting from it all has quickly become tiring. The very scary point is there was a brief moment where we weren't sure if we would see this movie. The fear that The Interview would be erased from existence, spend film history on a shelf as a mere legend, was a reality. But then Christmas came early.
On December 24th, 1pm ET, a full day before The Interview was initially slated to be released in theaters, the whole of the Internet was given the opportunity to watch it. Released for rental and to own on YouTube and Google Play, the film's chances of seeing the light of day spun around in a complete 180, and it did so with a vengeance. The Interview is a special case, a very special case, but many are already debating whether or not this model of release for a big-budget, studio movie will shake up the works or, at the very least, get some changes kickstarted that have been threatening to get made in the industry for years.
Now I've spent two full paragraphs talking about The Interview without really talking about The Interview, and it's the type of review - or feature article at this point - I fully intended to avoid. It is a shame the controversy that has built up around this film, very little of it having to do with the actual contents of the film. The mainstream media who discuss tend to be shrugging it off as a "dumb, stoner comedy." The hardcore, film fanatics look at The Interview more as a patriotic duty of solidarity against the country of North Korea. Oddly enough both of these verdicts about the film came with the majority of either group not even seeing it to begin with. Now that I've maneuvered my way through the preamble and gotten to the film itself I guess I would put it somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. Isn't that always the case?
Neither a flag-waving propaganda piece that'll spearhead a future war effort, nor a mindless, unexceptional comedy for slackers, The Interview brings to its subject matter the exact same style of ruthless, crude, and hysterical humor Rogen and Goldberg brought to their former works. The comedy is hardly as clever as one might hope, but neither is it complete brainless or totally without subtext. With Rogen and Franco on absolute fire, The Interview solidifies its creative team as the go-to squad for sharp comedic output. That's good enough. We don't need these guys to fight a war for us.
As if you weren't sure what the film is about, Rogen and Franco play a producer and host, respectively, of Skylark Tonight, the kind of tabloid news show where Rob Lowe admits his male pattern baldness or Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays with puppies. Rogen's producer is beginning to see the chintziness of their news output while Franco's hyperactive host doesn't mind sticking to the gaudy status quo.
Things take a turn when they learn Kim Jong-un, the 31-year-old dictator of North Korea, is an avid fan of the show, and it isn't long before the eponymous interview is set up. It also isn't long before the CIA steps in, convincing the two that their interview with the dictator is a perfect opportunity to take him out for good. Naturally whatever plan they have set up quickly goes to shit. It is a comedy after all.
The yield of Rogen and Golberg's labor is definitely aimed at a certain taste. Their comedies are vulgar, often shooting for the lower-hanging fruit. For the crass-loving crowd who ate films like Goon, which Goldberg co-wrote with Jay Baruchel, and This Is the End up, The Interview could not be up their alley more. Constant lewd sexual references abound, sight gags run rampant, and the leads bounce off each other like a pair of adorable, buddy-buddy bumper cars.
The Pineapple Express duo are equally hilarious here with every bit as much chemistry as they've shown before. Rogen and Franco are clearly great friends, their back-and-forth banter coming across so natural it rarely sounds scripted. Your ability to soak up Franco at 100mph is the real endurance in The Interview, his spastic pace and frantically coarse sense of style and language sometimes coming across as a test. Rogen is definitely the more straight-forward protagonist of the two, but both are put into some seriously ludicrous and hilarious situations.
Rogen and Goldberg hardly brush on American culture or what it says that a show like Skylark Tonight can thrive, something that could have put an even deeper stamp on what the film is trying to say. Instead The Interview focuses on the hardships found with the people of North Korea and the lunacy of their "supreme ruler." As the dictator we have Randall Park, who plays the part with a not-too-surprising whine and an agitation often set aside for an elitist. Park is great, and the film goes deep into what makes Kim Jong-un tick with as much sincerity as a comedy of this ilk can successfully pull off. The Interview may not answer any deep-rooted questions that might help with foreign relations with the country, but at least it asks them.
It goes without saying The Interview isn't going to be for everyone. The same can be said about every comedy ever put to film. That's the wonderful thing about comedy: it either works for you or it doesn't. At least with The Interview you know what brand of humor you're in store for, and, thanks to the modern technologies that are quickly changing the film industry as we know it, we have the opportunity to find out.