So I did my civic duty and took the time to watch the amazingly infamous movie The Interview. More importantly, I took the time to drive all the way out to Berkeley, which is just over 20 miles from my parents’ house, to see it on the big screen. There was no way I was going to just sit at home and watch it on You Tube. For all I know the terrorists will be able to trace the digital thumbprint I would have left had I streamed it on my computer. No, I went to the nearest movie theater playing it, paid for my ticket in cash and sat down in a comfortable seat. I didn’t bother with popcorn and drinks because I had a couple slices of pizza beforehand. No need to pack on more calories than I already had.
Anyway, I’m sure you all know the plot of The Interview by now even if you haven’t watched it yet. Dave Skylark (James Franco) hosts his own tabloid talk show called “Skylark Tonight,” and at his side is his faithful producer Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen) who helps him get the guests and the publicity he thrives upon. Then one day they get word that North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un is actually a big fan of “Skylark Tonight,” and this prompts them to ask the brutal dictator for an interview on their program. Surprisingly, they succeed in getting one with him, but then CIA agent Lacey (Lizzy Caplan) drops and asks them to use this opportunity to take out Kim Jong-un, but of course it takes them several minutes to realize that they are being asked to assassinate him.
I came out of this movie wanting to say it was good, but compared to other comedies Rogen and Franco have worked on, the laughs in The Interview are not as plentiful as they should have been. Regardless of its controversial place in popular culture, you really should expect nothing more than a silly comedy which contains situations not to be taken seriously in the slightest. But in the end, this is really a hit and miss comedy that ends up missing more than it hits, and there are far too many comedies like that out right now.
Perhaps the problem with The Interview is that it peaks too soon. The movie starts off with the old fashioned Columbia Pictures logo which gives us the impression that this is going to be slightly different and more subversive than your average comedy. Then we get treated to a beautiful little Korean girl who sings what sounds like the national anthem of North Korea, but then it descends into a wealth of crazy lyrics about the United States being reduced to rubble among other things. It may sound offensive, but I couldn’t help but laugh as the girl sang every insane lyric with an incredibly straight face.
While the primetime news is filled with stories of what a dangerous dictator Kim Jong-un, Skylark is busy talking with Eminem who ends up coming out as gay on his program. This is another gut bustingly hilarious moment in The Interview as the rapper makes this admission on a very serious note to where he doesn’t even have to try and be funny. While the reactions of both Franco and Rogen are amusing to watch, Eminem almost steals the entire movie out from everyone in the same way he stole scenes in Funny People.
Looking at Eminem’s cameo in The Interview made me realize what was wrong with the movie overall; it lacks a straight man to balance the humor out. Rogen and Franco are constantly trying to outdo one another for laughs to where everything becomes a lot sillier for a movie that was far too silly to begin with. The screenplay plays around with things like the time David Frost interviewed President Richard Nixon, and you even have Bill Maher showing up to share his own thoughts on the North Korea leader and “Skylark Tonight.” But in the end I came out of this movie feeling that too many opportunities were missed despite the filmmakers’ best efforts.
As for Kim Jong-un, he is portrayed here by Randall Park in a performance that works to avoid a lot of stereotypes actors can easily fall victim to. Park’s interpretation of Jong-un is actually quite amusing as he makes the dictator rather shy to where he’s still dealing with daddy issues regarding such seemingly miniscule issues like making a martini. Part of me was expecting an actor to play Kim Jong-un as the brutal bastard he is said to be in real life, but Park’s performance is a little more nuanced than to where he tricks you as much as he tricks the other characters around him.
Rogen once again directs alongside his longtime collaborator Evan Goldberg, and this comes not long after their directorial debut of This is the End which was flat out hilarious. This time, however, they are not able to keep the laughs coming at us on a consistent basis. The Interview pales in comparison to it as well as to Superbad which was really funny but also had something to say about the friendships we had in high school. Rogen and Goldberg end up dealing with a lot of the same themes in a slightly different context, but it proves to be only sporadically funny at best.
Aside from Park, there’s also a nice turn from Lizzy Caplan as the CIA agent trying to lead Rogen and Franco through to accomplishing their mission. There are times when her performance gets a little too broad, but she’s terrific as she makes you feel her frazzled frustration over the idiocy of these two celebrities who constantly screw things up.
Looking back at The Interview, it really does have as many laughs as it does missed opportunities. You also have to give Rogen, Goldberg, Franco and company credit for taking on such a controversial target. Much of the anger directed at this movie comes from people who I bet haven’t even seen it yet. If Kim Jong-un’s father could have a big laugh over Team America: World Police, then maybe his son can have a bit of a laugh over The Interview. But none of that changes the fact that this movie is far more concerned with being silly than it is with being funny.
At the very least, The Interview will have you looking at Katy Perry’s songs in a different light.