Director: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen
Writers: Dan Sterling, Seth Rogen
Cast: Seth Rogen, James Franco
During pre-production, The Interview would have just been another film in a long line of goofy comedies produced by the alumni of Judd Apatow’s Freaks and Geeks stable. Instead, thanks to the events of the last couple of months which allegedly involved North Koreans hacking and leaking Sony Picture Entertainment’s emails, passwords, memos and films in retaliation, it’s become one of the most talked about and anticipated releases of 2014. Not least because at one stage, it appeared that the hackers had convinced Sony not to release the film at all as threats were made about attacking cinemas that screened the film and further threats were made about releasing damaging information gleamed from the emails of Sony execs on Christmas Day.
The whole sordid affair was so public that huge numbers of people rallied behind the film, uniting no less than Barrack Obama and Mitt Romney in support of making the film available in the interests of fighting censorship and maintaining freedom of speech.
On Christmas Eve, Sony finally did a 180 on their decision not to release the film. Not only did they release it through cinemas, they also ran a huge video-on-demand campaign, making the film available through Youtube, PSN, Xbox Live, and Google Play to reach the widest possible audience. After a damaging couple of months with humiliating leaks, cancelled film premieres and capitulating to hacker threats, Sony had come good and triumphantly made the film accessible to a cinema audience whose hype and curiosity had reached fever pitch. Who wouldn’t want to watch a film that was so controversial that it caused a reclusive dictator to (allegedly) attempt to destroy not just the film itself but the entire studio that produced it.
So now that its out – is it any good?
The film stars James Franco who plays Dave Skylark, the idiotic host of a prime time television show that interviews celebrities. His producer is his faithful friend Aaron Rapaport, played by Seth Rogen. When we first meet the duo, they are celebrating their 1000th episode which was considered a roaring success as their guest Eminem casually outed himself as a homosexual, ensuring a solid ratings bump for the show. At the after party, Rapaport runs into an old college classmate who now works on 60 Minutes and sneers at the trashy nature of the Skylark show. Inspired by this insult to try and produce more meaningful content, Rapaport pleads with Skylark to book more newsworthy guests on the show and move away from the sensationalist dross they currently produce. The following night, when Skylark’s show is bumped for a newsflash about North Korea, he is inspired to book an interview with their leader Kim Jong Un when he researches his Wikipedia page and learns that he is a fan of the show. Some phone calls are exchanged, the interview is booked and on the eve of the trip to North Korea, the gormless duo are visited by Agent Lacey (Lizzy Caplan) from the CIA who requests that they use this golden opportunity to assassinate Kim Jong Un.
You can pretty much work out where the film goes from there. There’s an hour of Skylark and Rapaport fumbling around North Korea, as they continuously screw up their plans to take out Un. Skylark spends a day with the North Korean leader and finds him to be a kindred spirit who acts the way that he does because of a troubled relationship with his father. Some complications arise before we get the finale with the interview itself and the messy climax which is apparently the bit that North Korea really didn’t care for.
Lets be honest, The Interview isn’t very good. It’s not totally awful but the quality is absolutely on par with what you see advertised on the marquee. It’s from the people who made This Is The End and Bad Neighbours. So that’s what you’re getting.
The film is disappointingly toothless considering its subject matter. Never has there been a film that has garnered such controversy and notoriety around its release despite containing such tepid content. The humour isn’t edgy in the slightest and the film is done no favours by drawing comparisons to Team America, a comedy that did have the courage to fire shots at Kim Jong Ill, American foreign policy and pundits who monetize the situation from the sidelines.
The Interview is extremely formulaic and I guess it shows just how the Rogen/Franco lazy stoner comedy schtick can be applied to just about anything. This film has poop jokes, slow mo montages of the stars partying hard, dudebro bonding scenes and female characters who are there to be eye candy or to play the straight laced character in a whacky scene. It’s more or less the same thing they’ve been making for the better part of a decade and although the film has attracted the ire of Kim Jong Un, the film is stunning bereft of any political satire. It’s all dick and fart jokes. There’s obviously a market for this type of stuff but this film seems like an opportunity wasted.
One of the leaked memos from Sony highlighted the toxic relationship between the studio and Adam Sandler, a once great comic who cynically pumps out a film a year to an inexplicably large undiscerning fan base. The memo made clear what everybody had long suspected – that Sandler and the studio know that these fims are hot garbage but they are happy to collect a pay check for as long as the box office performance can take it. I feel the same attitude probably holds true for Rogen who was actually one of my favourites of the Apatow stable of comedians. When I see Jonah Hill move on to working in more challenging films (Moneyball, The Wolf of Wall Street), Martin Starr finding his niche in television (Party Down, Silicon Valley) and Jason Segel get involved in passion projects like The Muppets Movie, I’m sad that Rogen seems content producing the same formulaic movies over and over.
The Interview is a film that will long be remembered in the footnotes of Hollywood history for all the madness surrounding its release but there will be little wasted breathe on the film itself.