The Interview, 2014
Directed by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogan
Starring James Franco, Seth Rogen, Lizzy Caplan, Randall Park, Diana Bang, Timothy Simons, Reese Alexander
Dave Skylark and producer Aaron Rapoport run the celebrity tabloid show “Skylark Tonight.” When they land an interview with a surprise fan, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, they are recruited by the CIA to turn their trip to Pyongyang into an assassination mission.
Back in 1994, it was announced that Guns N’ Roses were working on a new album, the first with all-new material since 1991’s simultaneous release of Appetite for Destruction I & II. And as the years dragged by and members came and went, the hype and anticipation for Chinese Democracy only grew and grew. When it was released some 16 years later in 2008, the album was met with a tepid reaction. Chinese Democracy wasn’t terrible, but the problem was that it took too long to come out. So even if it was the second coming of Appetite for Destruction or better than anything Slash could ever have been a part of, it was never going to live up to the 16 years worth of hype. The Interview, the latest comedy from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, was always going to suffer from the same problem.
Late last year, the release of The Interview came into question when North Korea, whose leader Kim Jong Un was being parodied in the movie, threatened to attack any cinemas showing the stoner comedy. They also hacked into Sony’s email accounts which lead to the now infamous “Sony Hack” of last December and in the end, the studio decided to pull any showings of The Interview and cancel all of its premieres. So scary was the threat from North Korea that Paramount even pulled any special screenings of Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s Team America: World Police, another comedy that poked fun at the threatening nation. All of this created an insane amount of hype about a movie that, up until this point, no one cared about. But Sony, rightly, went back on their decision to pull the film and gave it a limited release before launching it onto video on demand services for everyone to see. Nowhere was attacked and now The Interview has arrived safely on British shores.
But, like Chinese Democracy, The Interview was never going to live up to the build and hype that the media storm surrounding it created. To compare it to another musical act, The Interview is a lot like a 2 Live Crew album: it’s rude, lewd and controversial on the surface, but actually rather bland and creatively empty when you really look at it.
James Franco plays Dave Skylark, TV chat show host to the most mind-numbing of celebrities, who has just celebrated a milestone episode with producer Aaron (Rogen) who is credited for turning the show around. But Aaron wants to do more than mild celeb gossip, so when he discovers that North Korea leader Kim Jong Un is a big fan of Skylark, the pair set off to interview him. When the US government learns of this however, Skylark and Aaron are tasked with assassinating President Kim in order to protect the United States for this supposed war monger.
The Interview is a movie of two halves. On the one hand, it’s quite a funny little bromance movie as it turns out Kim Jung Un is a very camp fellow who enjoys everything Skylark does like margaritas and the music of Katy Perry, leading to the two of them bonding and threatening the assassination attempt – as well as the bromance between Dave and Aaron. But on the other hand, The Interview is thoroughly annoying and unfunny as James Franco does everything in his power to get a laugh while failing miserably to do so. The first half an hour of the movie is excruciating to get through because Franco is such an unlikeable screen presence that you’ll struggle to remain in your seat and not walk out.
There is a fine line one has to walk when playing a character that is purposefully annoying. You have to get the character just right so that you’re irritating, but still likeable enough that an audience can engage and want for you to succeed. Take for example Gary King from The World’s End – he’s a royal prick who lies to his friends about his mother dying of cancer and ends up causing the end of the human race, but comes across as a mis-understood man-child who refuses to grow up and just wants to relive the glory days of youth when he still had his whole life ahead of him. Simon Pegg plays King perfectly so that you hate him, but like him just enough so that you want to see him come out on top at the end. Franco does not do this with Dave Skylark. Instead he gives a head-ache inducing performance that grates your very soul with such irritation that you’ll just want to punch him square in the balls.
Rogen on the other hand is a non-entity. He’s playing Seth Rogen. Have you seen 40 Year Old Virgin? Knocked Up? Zak and Miri Make a Porno? This is the End? Pineapple Express? Then you’ve seen his performance in The Interview. Rogen is an exceptional talent when he fully commits to roles, but here he’s just Rogen being Rogen. With that said, if yelling lines of dialogue every now and again gets your comedy rocks off, then you’ll have a ball.
But it’s sort of hard to hate The Interview, even with all of its huge flaws. Despite the annoyances in the early goings, the bromance between Skylark and President Kim is quite heart-warming (if a little predictable) and some of the over-the-top violence will bring out a few belly laughs. In many ways, The Interview is like The Internship with Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. It’s not funny enough to really be a “comedy”, but it’s by no means as bad as something like Dumb and Dumber To, The Other Woman or The Hangover Part III.
So, as predicted, The Interview does not live up to the hype. Had the movie not been surrounded by controversy, it would have come out, pleased the audience it aims for and be forgotten about by everyone else. But even taking the media buzz away from it, The Interview isn’t as funny as it thinks it is, nor is it as funny as their other efforts like Superbad, Bad Neighbours or This is the End – and the film couldn’t be further away from Team America: World Police in terms of political satire if it tried. It’s just a standard Seth Rogen/James Franco comedy that is beyond annoying in the first half then light comedy fluff in the second.
Nothing to see here, move along.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Luke Owen is the Deputy Editor of Flickering Myth and the host of the Flickering Myth Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @LukeWritesStuff.