By Matt Keay @mattadamkeay
It’s extremely rare that a film endowed with large amounts of fizzing and controversial column inches can ever live up to the hype. John Carter, Dark Shadows, and American Hustle recently suffered from this phenomenon, but for a completely different reason than The Interview. The hype surrounding most films might concern the star-studded cast, or the jaw-dropping visual effects, but in the case of Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen’s most recent satirical car crash, it is the threat to national security it potentially posed. It is disappointing that a film of this quality created such a brouhaha, as a more respectable or highbrow offering such unabashed chaos could’ve been important, or even had the about to enact some change, or at least begin conversation. The Interview, however, eventually appeared to be merely a storm in a teacup.
The plot is simple: Aaron Rapoport (Rogen), producer of flamboyant but clueless Dave Skylark’s gaudy talk show (James Franco, in a gratingly overacting performance), receives a call from the propaganda office of Kim Jong-Un, claiming that the Glorious Leader himself is a fan of the latter’s work, and would like to grant Skylark an exclusive interview. Upon learning this information, the CIA enlist Rapport and Skylark to assassinate Jong-Un, thus ridding the world of a cruel and immediately dangerous dictator.
The crux of the film is that Jong-Un (played by Randall Park, who, despite the crassness and vulgarity of the role, excels, displaying both his comic skills and menacing acting), is a master manipulator, and convinces Skylark that he is a misunderstood individual living under his father’s shadow, getting the presenter on side in order to conceal his crimes when it comes to transmission time. There is truth and fiction in his character, deftly mirroring the fog of information that emanates from North Korea outside the confines of cinema, and it is clearly the unforgiving lampooning of the dictator that inspired the ire which delayed the release of the film.
As expected, the laddish comedy employed by Goldberg and Rogen throughout their careers is at play here, and it seems that it hasn’t progressed any. The jokes are signposted clearly, relying on stereotypes and exaggeration, and results in some cringeworthy moments. It’s painfully clear that this is barrel-scraping comedy, bordering on awkward racism (There’s even an early ‘me so solly’ routine, setting the stall right out from the start). Rogen’s characters tend to have an angry detachment to them, resulting in bitter snarls amid the snarky improvisation. However, these idiosyncrasies are all but gone in the case of Rapoport. He seems to (at first, at least) be the moral compass for the film, albeit swayed by his OTT partner-in-crime, and appears to be apologising for the antics of Skylark, not only to the other characters, but to the audience, too. In quieter, more dramatic moments, Rogen shines, and proves he could deliver the goods in a more serious role.
The Interview is a minor work, and undeserving of the attention it received, Without the hype, it’s likely the film would’ve passed by largely unnoticed. There are few laughs, it’s vacuous, insensitive, and self-serving. Moreover, it is unnecessarily gruesome, in a way that doesn’t serve in the plot at all. It would be far more beneficial for more important efforts to appreciate the kind of media saturation this film appreciated.