The Interview is one of the most controversial films of all time. Pulled from release as a result of a Sony Pictures being hacked by an alleged North Korean cyber-terror group; the international media at fever pitch, the president of the United States even submitting statements admonishing the studio for caving in to censorship; it's a shame it really wasn't worth that kind of fuss. Dave Skylark (James Franco) is the host of T.V's hottest live, celebrity confessional and Aaron Rapaport (Seth Rogen) is the producer who catapulted the show to the top of the ratings. When President Kim Jong Un (Randall Park) confesses to being a fan of the show, the 'desperate for legitimacy' Rapaport jumps at the opportunity to try and facilitate a one on one interview with the world’s last dictator.
One has to address the elephant in the room; the very men who coined the phrase "The Simpsons' did it," Southpark's Trey Parker and Matt Stone have not only done the Korean dictator movie with a barrage of dick jokes but they did it BETTER. Team America: World Police is a scathing satire of U.S foreign policy, and a neutering of the (arguably worse) Kim Jong-il; with the added ridiculousness and genius of PUPPETS! Of course North Korea continues to commit heinous crimes against their own populace, practice facist propaganda and threaten to extinguish the U.S from the earth every second week. It's ripe content for Dan Sterling (screenplay/story), Seth Rogen (story) and Evan Goldberg (story) however the efforts of these three gents, feels much like Rapaport's own pursuit for journalistic integrity. They've been responsible for some great escapist, hilarious, ‘bromance’ comedies and they're trying to up the stakes. When the task becomes too daunting, they shift gears into movie references, detailed descriptions of post-sex 'dick stink' and singing along to Katy Perry.
Franco is a kind of insane level of smug and self-assured that in different moments Skylark is either amazing or infuriatingly stupid. I don't know whether it's the Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary special, or just what Skylark immediately conjured for me, but that character in the hands of a comedic talent like Phil Hartman would most definitely elevated The Interview. Hartman had that one of a kind inflated opinion of himself that you could see flip on a dime to reveal the fearful vulnerability. Franco is devoid of that nuance. His natural confidence shines through Skylark, like a spotlight trying to be covered by a handkerchief.
Rogen does not convince as the wunderkind producer and the secret to Skylark's success. He does have a crush on President Kim's main press liaison Sook (Diana Bang); but it feels about as convincing as Samwise getting up from his seat at the pub in Return of the King to make out with the bar wench. Park plays Kim as the secretly sensitive son that’s had to elevate in stature in the enormous power vacuum left in the absence of his father. Some of the best directed and performed scenes of the film are Skylark and Kim's bonding session that devolves into a rap video with guns, booze and barely clad women.
Wait, is this actually funny? In short, yes. Is it at the level of Superbad or This is the End? No. The multi-tiered Lord of the Rings jokes that takes the entire film to finally pay off, is pretty damned awesome though. Any movie that Rogen and Goldberg are involved with has plenty of laughs, but the gaps between laughs are so sustained that you almost break that golden rule and reach for your phone to check what's happening on twitter.
The Interview is all bromance and no bite, all dick jokes and no penetrating satire. Sorry Seth and Evan; Trey and Matt did it.
Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to legacy audio reviews on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.
Directed by: Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen
Written by: Dan Sterling (screenplay/story), Seth Rogen (story) & Evan Goldberg (story)
Starring: James Franco, Seth Rogen, Lizzy Caplan, Randall Park, Diana Bang, Timothy Simons, Reese Alexander
James Franco ... Dave Skylark
Seth Rogen ... Aaron Rapaport
Lizzy Caplan ... Agent Lacey
Randall Park ... President Kim
Diana Bang ... Sook
Timothy Simons ... Malcolm
Reese Alexander ... Agent Botwin