|The cast of|
has way more fun
than its audience will.
The Interview (2014)
Dir. Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg
Scr. Dan Sterling
Starring: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Randall Park, Lizzy Caplan, Diana Bang, Eminem, Rob Lowe
Review By Greg Klymkiw
On paper, this must have sounded pretty good. The producer (Seth Rogen) and host (James Franco) of a highly rated sleaze-o-rama TV interview show specialize in outrageous shock-value exposes of American pop culture celebrities: for example, Eminem announces his homosexuality on the show, whilst Rob Lowe removes a toupee and there's talk of interviewing Matthew McConaughey about his sexual relations with a goat. When the dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, a huge fan of the show agrees to an interview, our bro-mantic couple are not only going to be shipped all expenses paid to North Korea, but are approached and trained by the CIA to assassinate him.
Hilarity, supposedly, ensues.
Unfortunately, The Interview just isn't very funny and spins its wheels most of the time in a sort of schizophrenic manner - never reaching the level of bonafide satire, nor lowering itself to the depths of just plain outrageous humour. Franco and Rogen are, as per usual, engaging enough and manage to squeeze out a few mild chuckles along the way, but because their performances are both pitched so high in the tongue-in-cheek department, it manages to mute whatever laugh potential existed in the material if it had been played with much straighter faces.
The picture's attempts at a kind of good-natured balancing act between blinkered American racism and ethnocentrism never works since the film is so far removed from being genuine satire that such extremities which, might have been delightfully, darkly and viciously funny in that context, just fall flat. As it stands, jokes about how cute dogs can only live freely in America instead of being eaten by ravenous, starving North Koreans or how stupid the North Korean security forces are that they never implant surveillance equipment in the rooms occupied by the leading men (as they openly discuss their assassination plans) and Kim Jong-un's secret obsession with Katy Perry music (and the list, goes on and on and on) all feel like discarded SNL gags.
In terms of the picture's potential to poke fun at America's constant attempts to overthrow dictators - not because it's the right thing to do, but because they can gain economic and political footholds the world over - is all dashed when the seemingly friendly Kim Jong-un is eventually revealed to be the psychotic despot everyone has assumed he was to begin with. American might is right and assassination IS the ONLY answer. It's here where the movie is a not-so-shameless propping up of American Imperialism at its worst.
Some might suggest I doth pretest too much - that The Interview is just meant to be a silly, good-natured comedy. Stupid, however, is not silly and assassination is not good-natured. Worst of all, the movie isn't even supremely godawful, it's just crashingly mediocre. Did I smile and chuckle? Very occasionally. Did the movie ever bore me? Well, uh yeah, actually it did. Did, God Forbid, the movie offend me? Well, sort of - only insofar as its subject matter could well have been exploited for its satirical potential and instead, took incendiary material and reduced it to the level of a sub-par buddy comedy a la Bing and Bob On the Road (but lacking even the "sophistication" of those creaky endeavours).
The Eminem and Rob Lowe cameo interviews are not without some meagre merit and Randall Park genuinely delivers a standout performance as the dictator - delivering most of his stuff with a straight face and only eventually going into over-the-top territory where the script, such as it is, demands the actor to go. Sadly, the scene with the greatest potential to be inspired lunacy involves finger-biting, but it never goes as far as it should. It injects something potentially outrageous, but holds back where it counts the most. All one need do is recall the Monty Python sketch entitled "Salad Days By Sam Peckinpah" to acknowledge the missed potential here.
Overall, The Interview proves to be one rancid, overcooked bowl of kimchi.
The funniest moment for me was when Kim Jong-un reveals a tank bestowed upon North Korea by Stalin. James Franco corrects the dictator by saying, "In my country, we pronounce his name as "Stallone."
This, garnering the biggest laugh from me, simply hammered home that the movie is unequivocally lame at best.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: *½ One-and-a-half-stars
The Interview is in limited theatrical release and playing day-and-date on VOD via Sony Pictures.
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