Review: The Interview (2014)

Review: The Interview (2014)

Amidst the controversy, the threats, the hacking, and the pulled release – stoner stalwarts Seth Rogen and James Franco’s comic poke at North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong-Un, ‘The Interview’, has taken on somewhat of a martyrish status in the film community in recent months. ‘A defeat for free speech’, they called its cancellation. Fair a point though that may be, it is hard to say that the general populous has been deprived of any real kind of hard-hitting satire in its absence.

Helming a semi-successful, but trashy tabloid show, Dave Skylark (Franco) and his producer Aaron Rapoport (Rogen) strive for a level of journalistic integrity not befitting their usual content. When the duo learns that the infamous North Korean dictator is a fan of their show, they scoop an unlikely televised interview that they hope will propel their standing in the eyes of the nation. Sensing a rare opportunity, however, the CIA snares the two and coerces them to use the interview as a cover for Kim’s assassination.

The Interview is as a Rogen/Franco collaboration was always going to be; a smutty, silly, performance-driven film, riding firmly on the back of its two likeable leads. Had Kim taken offense to Pineapple Express instead, the world would be no less enlightened. Ultimately, the question that sticks in the mind is, ‘is this what all that fuss was about?’ The Interview prods and pokes North Korea’s Supreme Leader, but certainly doesn’t pierce the skin.

The premise of the film is outlandish, rather than brave. Following the established comedy trope of two goofballs charged with an important task way above their station, The Interview makes an identity for itself by putting its larger-than-life comic duo into the very real debate over Kim Jong-Un’s political tenure. A deliberate ploy for controversy, no doubt, but in truth the film does very little with the attention it receives as a result.

Kim, the character, is portrayed in equal measures as a bloated effeminate loner, and devious master manipulator. Despite some Wikipedia fuelled musings about the real-life Kim’s supposed atrocities, Randall Park’s rendition very rarely strays away from the standard bumbling comedy villain stereotype. Though it smacks of a missed opportunity for witty insight, there are plenty of dick jokes to remind us that Rogen and Franco were probably never really aiming to pull up trees with their political spin. It’s a strange one. Without the controversy surrounding the non-release, the film wouldn’t lend itself to such staunch analysis. Really it’s more playground bullying than propaganda. Sticks and stones and all that, Kim.

That said, within typical action-comedy parameters, the film succeeds. Franco’s egocentric chat show host is a delight, Seth Rogen brings just enough Seth Rogen to the table to remain hugely entertaining, and the two continue to work well as comic fodder for one another. Throw in some explosion-filled adrenaline jolts and you really do have a creation that satisfies two cheap hours very nicely. Franco and Rogen haven’t revolutionised comedy, they haven’t revolutionised satire, but what they have done is entertain. Fans of the duo will find much to thrive upon in this film.

Joyously, too, the humour manages to steer nicely around the idea of senseless racism (where others may plunged head-first), and remains equally critical of the American media in its parody as it does the supposed ‘enemy’. Showcasing a cultural obsession with the benign comings-and-goings of celebrities is scarcely much of an exposé, but Franco’s self-reflective, absurdist rendition of a gossip-pandering television personality is too on-point to ignore. In all honesty, there is probably enough America-baiting to give even the supreme leader a few chuckles. If he can ignore the part where he is depicted crying and shitting himself, that is.

Playground bullying it may be, but I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t, in parts, very funny. Ideas of high satire may be much beyond The Interview’s place in this world, but it revels in the squalor of the lowbrow. The film may never see a full theatrical release, but it merits watching in whatever format you can get your hands (or your browsers) on. It is grubby, giggly, mostly forgettable fun that – despite its insane publicity – has no business as a campaign for free speech or political analysis. Watch it, enjoy it, but don’t expect anything too sharp.

Oh, and don’t tell Kim.


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