So, where do you even start a review of a movie that stopped world news and got the attention of the President of the United States? Just focus on the movie, that’s the mantra. Just focus on the movie. Let’s see how far that gets us.
The Interview, the second film directed by writing duo Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, has caused a huge a stir (Damn! Broke it already!). When you see what all the fuss is about, you might realize that people are really good at getting offended before getting the full story. Political satire has been around since humans were grunting at each other in caves, so making a movie poking fun at Kim Jong-Un shouldn’t feel that radical.
But let’s get back to that later. I don’t want this review to become about everything around the movie, rather than about the movie itself, because Rogen and Goldberg are smart enough to give us a lot to talk about. In The Interview, Rogen doesn’t smoke a single joint or crack a joke about his Jewish background. It is nice to see him leave his comfort zone, but luckily, he doesn’t venture too far away from it.
In The Interview, Rogen plays Aaron Rapaport, a producer on a light-hearted entertainment news show with a “gotcha!” spin to it. Host Dave Skylark (James Franco) is great at getting entertainers to reveal big secrets. He would probably make a great journalist if he only had a brain. While Dave is content with his work, Aaron dreams of doing something that is more important. When an offer to interview Kim Jong-un comes across his desk, he gladly accepts it. As satire of entertainment journalism, it works fairly well, as it gets to the root of every journalist who ends up focusing on the wrong part of every story.
The film gets off to a bit slow start out of the gate, but at 112 minutes long, this is a marathon, not a sprint, of a comedy. Most of the scenes before the film gets to North Korea focus on a sort of bromance between Dave and Aaron. If the film simply focused on that and had not taken the characters out of New York and into Pyongyang, then that would have been enough. However, Rogen and Goldberg have certainly said their piece about male friendship through movies like Superbad and This Is the End, so it is refreshing to see that The Interview focuses more on an unbreakable professional bond. Despite his status as one of the biggest comedy stars in Hollywood, Rogen is always willing to play the straight man. Franco, who is sometimes known as the self-serious artist, has no problem playing the nutcase. Both these actors play against type so well and mesh perfectly together.
The real scene-stealer here is Randall Park as Kim Jong-un. This is the kind of role that will probably land him a ton of work in the future. He gives the feared North Korean dictator the kind of three dimensionality you might not even see in an Oscar begging genre. He plays him as somebody who is really evil but also somebody who just want to be one of the guys. If the Golden Globes weren’t a complete fraud, then they would have nominated him for Best Actor.
Given the events of the past week, The Interview has been under more pressure than ever to be this mind-blowing satire that blows the lid off this whole Communist Cult of Personality thing. Bad news: it does not. Good news: that does not make it a failure. The idea that North Korea is a sad, impoverished nation under a shoddy facade of happiness is something that was covered excellently by Vice. The idea that Kim Jong-un just wants to please his dead father was basically assumed the moment he took power in Pyongyang.
Instead of hoping for the next Dr. Strangelove, let’s embrace The Interview for being a solid action comedy. While it does not top This Is the End, The Interview proves that Rogen and Goldberg are two of the best comedy directors working today. Cinephiles beware, with its hyper-kinetic violence and history-bending twist, The Interview takes more cues from Inglourious Basterds and Sam Peckinpah than Knocked Up or Superbad. This is not to say that they have abandoned all of their principles, just that they are exploring new territory.
The Interview also shows how much this pair knows how to write and film comedy. I appreciate the first half of this film even more after seeing how much of it converges in the grand finale. Normally, the use of pop songs in a film can be an annoying crutch, as if to profit off something that is already profitable. Here, the use of one certain pop hit helps to create a genius comedic sight gag. Some idiots tried to ruin it on the internet before any of us even got to see the film, but nobody was able to do the irony justice.
Years down the road, once the hype has dissipated, we might see The Interview in a completely different light. But if you are going to sit down to watch it, whether on YouTube or at your local art house theater, I beg you not to look at it as some courageous act of patriotism. Rather, just sit back, relax, and enjoy the sight of a grown man shitting his pants.
ABOUT THE ENDING (SPOILER ALERT DUH): Part of me really wishes the film ended with the image of Aaron and Dave sitting on that boat, floating out to sea. Look, I understand that you have to wrap everything up, and people would be furious if they didn’t get to see Dave finally write his tell-all while Aaron Skypes with his North Korean girlfriend (great way to bring back what seemed like a throwaway line). But that ending just seems too neat, and seeing everything in North Korea be tied up with a nice bow feels just the slightest bit contrived. So why not just have the two of them sitting on a boat together, wondering what the hell is going to happen next?