An unsurprisingly terrible film, The Interview attempts to elevate stoner comedy to the realm of international politics. Poorly plotted, acted, and aggressively unfunny the film wavers between genuinely attempting lowest common denominator humour and striking out for so-good-it’s-bad territory – as a result, dying in the no man’s land inbetween. The film is a chapter all involved, particularly Sony, will want to quickly forget and is only likely to get repeat viewings from CIA special rendition detainees.
Director: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen.
Screenplay: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Dan Sterling.
Runtime: 112 minutes.
Cast: James Franco, Seth Rogen, Randall Park, Diana Bang.
Reviewed by Drew Ninnis.
Plot: Securing an interview with the most secretive dictator in the world, lightweight TV host Dave Skylark and his loyal producer Aaron Rapaport head to North Korea and to the lair of Kim Jong Un. But not before the CIA knocks on the door, coercing them into an assassination attempt on the young tyrant’s life. The abundant lack of competence the two demonstrate does not give the CIA pause for a minute, and as a result the film documents the pair’s numerous fuck-ups on the way to a typically worst of both worlds conclusion.
Review: ‘Your butthole is ironic!’ – Kim Jong Un (Randall Park), The Interview.
How does one even begin reviewing something like Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen’s The Interview? Oh, right, by observing that it is unforgivably terrible. How terrible, you ask? The Ishtar brown standard of terrible. So terrible it also, fittingly, nearly bought down a studio through attracting a high profile cyber attack attributed to the country ineffectively mocked during The Interview’s running time, North Korea. Also – did I just make a shit joke a sentence or two back? Well, strap yourself in, because The Interview is full of it.
Lets get the unsurprising preliminaries out of the way. My regular reader will know what a fan I am of James Franco’s varied oeuvre, and again he does not disappoint in being utterly disappointing. Playing Dave Skylark, a much derided celebrity gossip host absolutely devoid of substance, Franco has found himself the ultimate character cover as an actor and effectively inoculated himself against any form of criticism (but also praise). To say his performance was cartoonish would be a disservice to tragic victims of falling anvils; indeed, Franco is absolutely over the top and unbelievable to a point where his sincerest wish seems to be to come out of the other side of terrible and make it back into the territory of absolutely, crazily, fantastic. It is a testament to his enduring talent that he falls far short of even that dubious attempt, like a lesser Magellan sinking a few nautical miles off the Canary Islands. Instead he and his character are deeply wearing, managing to overstay their welcome within the opening shots of the film – surely some sort of record. There’s an attempt to mock the sort of gossip Dave Skylark traffics in, with a faux-Eminem coming out as gay on his show, and Rob Lowe coming out as bald – as Lowe feels obligated to appear in every horrifyingly bad comedy to mock himself (and one feels, paraphrasing Golda Meier, ‘don’t be so modest, you’re not that famous’). He’s either the patron saint of bad Hollywood ideas, or the Mikado has sentenced him to a punishment for some sort of mysterious but equally ironic and horrific crime. Regardless, Franco’s performance is bad, is what I’m saying.
And that performance in turn provides cover for the lower key, lazier Rogen who reprises his cornered market role of lovable, responsible schlub and what passes for a straightman in this day and age. He’s pretty terrible too, and bears a bigger weight of judgement because he ostensibly helped write and direct the film. One suspects “Story by Seth Rogen” means he lit one up and said ‘what would be so fucking cool is, like, a movie about two stoners trying to kill that North Korean dude (insert trademark Rogen chuckle).’ Someone then had to write that up, probably Sterling, with the ever-wise Goldberg and Rogen contrubiting ‘put a dick joke there!’ on the occasions they pop their heads in. Thus we get several minutes of Franco’s character complaining about his ‘stink dick’ in a hangover while Rogen holds off the CIA emissaries at the door. Civilisation rarely sinks lower. Alternately, one also suspects that ‘Directed by Seth Rogen’ means himself and the cast basically riffed a lot of the scenes. The resulting quality of the dialogue reflects that; with Rogen occasionally piping in ‘wouldn’t it be funny if I did this?’ as co-director. Sure, if the standard of funny is defined by a high school improv session. And a very junior one at that.
What else to say about the film? The plot is not particularly sensible, and yet remarkably predictable at the same time. Innocent bystanders Lizzy Caplan, Randall Park, and Diana Bang do their best but are done no favours by the script, and really can’t turn down high-profile work anyway. Key to the plot is a tiger attack defeated by an accidental drone strike, and Rogen’s character inserting a giant metal tube up his anus. Teenage fantasies of sex, cars, and wealth feature prominently. Perfunctory political critique makes an obligatory, embarrassing appearance. Nothing of worth is expressed, and much time is wasted.
Reportedly, Sony did not wish to release the film due to threats from the regime itself and then backed down when public controversy arose. One suspects that Sony used this story as a cover, perhaps so deeply embarrassed by the celebrity stoner mess they had inadvertently produced. Criticism forced their hand, and the public received the film they hadn’t really been waiting for (“It’s ok North Korea, we don’t like James Franco either” one theatre sign read). Also reportedly, American intelligence services knew of and observed the cyber attacks but did not take action at the time – accurately assessing that the film, the company who sponsored it, and those associated didn’t really deserve any protection as only their reputations were understandably in danger.
That any and all digital copies of The Interview didn’t miraculously burst into flames is one of those sad what-if’s of human history. In lieu of such a fitting send off, I would advise all to avoid The Interview like the metaphorically lice-infested, steaming dung-pile, criminal misuse of precious resources and innocent viewer’s time that it is. The only repeat viewings it is likely to get is by future CIA special rendition detainees, likely heaping one crime against humanity atop another.
Rating: Zero stars.