Seth Rogen’s The Interview is more Cold War than nuclear hot.
The Interview was one of the most controversial films of last year – even before its release. The film allegedly angered the North Korean government to the point it attempted to extort Sony Pictures by reportedly hacking and leaking other unreleased Sony films and sensitive company documentation. Sony then pulled the release of The Interview globally, a move that sparked backlash from the media and started fierce debates around the world about whether or not world leaders should be appeasing the dictator Kim Jong-un. It even led to US President Barack Obama saying Sony “made a mistake” in pulling the film.
Despite the build-up, however, The Interview fails to live up to expectations. What could have been an intelligent satire, and a humorous analysis of the situation in North Korea, quickly devolves into more of the Canadian comedian’s tired stoner jokes. Rogan teams up with Academy Award nominee James Franco, but their main comedic strategy is to repeat a sexually explicit joke numerous times to ensure the audience understands that it’s funny. As with Rogen and Franco’s last film, This is the End (2013), the intended audience for the film seems to be the stars themselves … and drug users? Certainly, watching this movie without herbal anaesthesia proves fairly difficult during the more grating and repetitive moments.
The acting is a mixed bag: TV Star Randall Park from The Office gives a great performance as a strangely complex Kim Jong-un and James Franco is painfully funny as the intentionally annoying Dave Skylark, the two delivering most of the film’s funny moments. The major downfall is Seth Rogen, who once again seems to play himself. He seems to insert himself into every script he touches, playing an almost identical character in terms of mannerisms and speech patterns. What added earthiness and believability to a movie like Pineapple Express in 2008 now serves only to prevent The Interview becoming a clever parody of anything.
Visually it’s a lot of fun. The film’s soft and golden interiors excellently contrast its bleak concrete exteriors and show how much effort was put into the set design to try and make Kim Jong-un’s mountain fortress (which feels strangely similar to Hitler’s Bavarian mountain getaway, The Eagle’s Nest) an appealing and entertaining place to stage the duo’s comedic antics. The whole place is almost reminiscent of buildings in old North Korean propaganda films. One of the film’s genuinely funny moments is when we catch a brief glimpse of a North Korean soldier watching the titular interview on a computer running Windows 95. The nod to the comically outdated OS proves that the film can, at times, be both subtle and silently funny.
Overall, The Interview is a well-intentioned comedy that’s just too loud in a setting where some silence would be appreciated. Sadly, interesting visuals and fantastic acting from Park and Franco can’t save this movie from tired sex jokes and bland writing. Ultimately, it is a less than enjoyable film. – Joseph Papandrea
Top photo courtesy of Sony Pictures.