Directors: Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogan
Starring: James Franco, Seth Rogan, Randell Park, Lizzy Caplan, Diana Bang, Timothy Simons
Written by: (also story) Dan Sterling, (story) Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogan
Running Time: 112 mins
Release date: 6th February 2015
It would have been very hard not to know the title The Interview. The most controversial film in years, it almost started a war between the States and North Korea, with accusations of cyber-hacking and political sanctions. When this was going on, I was thinking to myself, “Really? A Seth Rogan film is causing this much trouble?” Could it be that we have a biting, savage satire sticking a finger up at North Korea? Actually, no. Instead we get another Seth Rogan film filled with sex, drugs and jokes about male genitalia, just like every other Rogan film. Only difference is, it uses a world leader as part of the ridicule and, surprisingly, there are moments when it’s funny.
Dave Skylark is a dim-witted, small-time celebrity interviewer whose show is as irrelevant as the egotistical host. His long-time producer, Aaron Rapoport, dreams of making a difference within the world of news. So when the chance to interview North Korean leader Kim Jong-un arises, Aaron and Dave jump at the opportunity. However, When the CIA hear about this, they persuade the men to assassinate him.
With Sony refusing to release the film for fear of a backlash, then backtracking after American complained about freedom of speech, at the same time the company trying to sweep under the carpet all the private e-mails between executives ridiculing certain actors, you would have thought The Interview would be a tougher film. It’s not. Instead it’s a comedy that has plenty of missed opportunities, with Rogan’s usual lowest denominator attitude to getting laughs. Yet remove the collection of misogynistic, drug-fueled, nob gags and you do have a solid double act and some genuinely imaginative moments that did make me laugh.
Kim Jung-un isn’t made out to be a total monster, which would have been easy. We get almost a lost soul, who lacks any real love, or real friends and so latches onto Skylark as someone to trust. It’s after Skylark discovers the truth about a nation starving that we get to see a psychopath. Up to then, he loves puppies, driving tanks and listening to Katy Perry’s Fireworks.
Where the film’s real heart lies is in the relationship between Skylark and Rapoprt. Having James Franco and Rogan swapping roles works. So Franco gets the big laughs as the chat show host who doesn’t have a clue. His self-important yet incredibly dumb character may not be the most original creation in the world but dressed in outrageous suits and failing to understand almost everything, Franco has enough energy to pull it off.
Rogan, playing the put-upon producer, manages to be softer than usual, falling for a Korean officer, which starts off sweetly, then heads down the predictable road of sweetness turning into something else. Yet this balance of quiet underplaying and Franco’s brashness does work.
Credit to must go to Randell Park as President Kim. Playing a character that exists and is so notorious cannot be easy, he manages to almost steal the film from the leads with a funny, sometimes sweet performance that actually has a sense of sympathy, except for heading down the road of caricature.
This doesn’t have the punch of Team America: World Police, which was far more scathing about Kim Jung-un’s father and this will probably be forgotten in years to come, it did make me laugh, sometimes in a very guilty way, others because it was genuinely funny. Like a 21st century version of The Road movies, Franco and Rogan do make for a decent double act and if the material was stronger, this could have been the comedy of the year. It’s just a shame that the contents doesn’t really match the controversy.