So this film had some controversy surrounding it. By which I mean someone who may or may not be tied to North Korea didn’t like the look of the film and so they hacked Sony and proceeded to distribute emails and films galore. Oddly, Sony actually cancelled the release of the film, and then everyone pointed out how they probably shouldn’t and the film got released as planned along with a bonus online distribution model. If I was a cynic I’d say it was probably all one elaborate marketing scam. I mean, it would fit in with the film’s constant themes of deception… might not be though. Click the jump for my review thing.
In The Interview James Franco is leading celeb gossip TV interviewer Dave Skylark. His best friend is his show’s Producer Aaron Rapaport (Seth Rogen) who is feeling a little dejected after being mocked by an old college acquaintance that looks down on his show for its sensationalist nature. When Aaron and Dave discover that North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un (Randall Park) is a huge fan of their show they set out to get the biggest interview of all time with the dictator. When the CIA find out they send Agent Lacey (Lizzy Caplan) to convince Dave and Aaron it might be a cool idea to totally assassinate the Great Leader while they’re there. Things do not go to plan.
When The Interview came out last night I saw a number of very negative reviews popping up. Complaints of toilet humour, a lack of political commentary and so forth. I find this odd. It is odd because this is a Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg film. If it wasn’t a dumb, crude and outlandish comedy it wouldn’t be one of their films. I went in expecting a Seth Rogen comedy and that’s exactly what I got. In fact, I quite liked it.
Yes there’s a load of crude humour. There’s a lot of jokes driven into the ground too. But the film is actually decently written, well shot and managed to illicit a number of decent laughs from me. Which is more than I could have said for Pineapple Express which I just didn’t really get into so much. The film touches on conditions in North Korea enough to give you plenty of reasons to hate Kim Jong-Un. Now, that may sound a bit silly, like expecting a film to give you reasons to hate Hitler, but through the film’s second act there’s a good chance you’ll actually really like old Kimmy. You see, the film deals a lot with forms of deception ranging from tricking two idiots into doing something dangerous via a little exposed cleavage to lying to an entire nation to keep them subservient. Kim uses this to his advantage to get Dave on his side and reveals a lot of his personal issues that happen to tally with Dave’s own insecurities.
It really says something about a film’s writing and the performance of an actor that, when combined, you’ll start to actually like a mad dictator. Kim Jong-Un, in the film, likes Katy Perry and Margaritas despite his father telling him that they are gay. He explains how overwhelmed he is by being thrust into leading a nation at the age of 31. He gains your sympathy by being nothing like you expect. What’s really quite nice is that this isn’t entirely an act by him. It becomes a key part of the film’s final act that his insecurities are played out against him. Not to spoil too much but the actual interview sequence towards the film’s end is actually a really nicely staged scene that could have played completely straight with a few tweaks and been effective drama. Wouldn’t have fit in this film, but in essence the scene hits all the dramatic staging points you’d want. And then fingers get bitten off and James Franco drives a tank.
So yeah, the film isn’t smart and it’s not going to enlighten people to the horrors of North Korea any more than Team America: World Police did. But it’s an enjoyable slice of comedy and that’s kind of all it tries to be. If this were a comedy by Paul Thomas Anderson or the like then I’d expect a harder hitting element of truth to the film. I’ve said many times that a film’s honesty can be it’s most important aspect. If it sets out to achieve a certain goal and can do so without being pain to watch, then really, it’s done its job. Not every film needs to be a brave expose of a harsh life. Not every comedy needs to use high brow humour.
When it comes to the film’s humour a large amount does rely on the current American trend of reactionary dialogue humour. By which I mean character A gets angered/excited/embarrassed by a thing and then character B reacts with a noise or phrase that’s likely a pop culture reference. This can grate a lot. Especially a number of running gags Dave Skylark attempts to turn into some kind of catchphrase. But brilliantly they all have some sort of pay off, be it a moment of connection with another character or a not to subtle reference to the pop culture that the joke was sourced from. This is one of the film’s strengths. That every element appears to be set up and paid off. Plot elements are hinted at and played out. There’s actual jokes, which is something many comedies struggle with these days. There’s a sequence where Aaron has a strip of Ricin poison on his hand that has a fully played out sequence that fails to actually answer how he removed it, but really, that’s about the only oversight. Even Kim Jong-Un’s love of Katy Perry has a humorous pay-off.
In the end I can’t say I didn’t get the sort of film I was expecting. I’d say I got exactly that with a few nice touches. No it’s not going to enlighten or deliver a message beyond deceiving people is bad, but it’s clearly not that film. I can’t begrudge a film for doing exactly what I thought it was. I could be disappointed but I laughed more than this then I have many modern comedy films. It’s no Team America in the laugh per minute rate, but it tries its best. The Interview certainly didn’t feel like a waste of time and was, at the very least, a decently put together piece of comedy. Also, Randall Park is great in this. That guy deserves better than to be playing random Asian guy roles.