Despite all attempts by the North Korean government to suppress Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s film, The Interview is available to the general public. Not only that, but I was privileged enough to see the movie in theatres with a crowd which is the way the film is meant to be seen. So, with all the controversy and threats, is this a film that is truly worth all the media hysteria?
This is the latest in Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s collaborations in film. They have created the instant classic Superbad as well as Pineapple Express and This is The End, the last being the duo’s directorial debut. All the films were ultimately about a friendship and this film follows the essential formula of the previous films in juxtaposing a strained friendship and a fantastical situation. Also this is the third time with Rogen being the straight man to the antics of his goofy friend played by James Franco. This is not meant to be a disparaging of Rogen & Goldberg for approaching the same story and characters with a different setting, but simply an observation. Charlie Chaplin was never criticized for playing the Tramp in countless films. Woody Allen has played a variation of his intellectual neurotic for over 40 years. Comedy does not demand something completely “different,” but an excellent variation to a successful routine.
This time around James Franco plays Dave Skylark, a media personality who spends his days interviewing celebrities on the most trivial of matters. Dave is an analogue of Ryan Seacrest and is played with such crudeness and vapid narcissism that he is essentially a lovable buffoon. The film is not laying any grand revelation of the media. But it’s almost disheartening that the idiotic interviews conducted are not far from the truth. Major props for Eminem and Rob Lowe for being such good sports in their willingness to appear the way they do. Above all else, Skylark’s shallow lifestyle and minimal brainpower are shown to be a crutch to seek validation for his existence.
The inane nature of Dave’s show gets to Seth Rogen’s Aaron, the producer of Dave’s show. Dave more than anything cannot function without Aaron and is quick to do anything to appease him. So the first serious guest that attracts Dave’s attention is Kim Jong-Un, who is a big fan of Dave. Dave does not really grasp how corrupt and dangerous Kim Jong is to the world and simply views the interview as an excellent opportunity. So it does not come as completely shocking that his only major motivation to assassinate Kim Jong-Un is a chance at getting to sleep with the beautiful Agent Lacey (Mean Girls’ Lizzy Caplan). The comedic duo repeatedly say that they are being played with the age-old “Honeypot” scheme, of someone using beauty and charm to make their target amenable to whatever they desire.
Sure enough Dave is quick to fall for the schemes of Kim Jong-Un (Randall Park) who appears as a humble man with some daddy issues and dealing with the pressure of running a country at a young age. The film is not at all the greatest political satire of this decade. Nor is it saying anything profoundly new that has not been said about North Korea or similar totalitarian states. In fact part of the irony is that both Dave and audiences are only shown the glamorous façade of North Korea. But even in the charming face of the nation one can tell that Kim Jong-Un is not the man he claims to be.
The comedic charm of the film lies in the performances and the film’s willingness to address the power of media. If anything Kim Jong’s power comes from his image, and his ability to manipulate everyone into believing the doublethink lies he espouses. The satire is a two-way street as the film does tackle our obsession with celebrity and American stupidity. The film is sidesplitting with moments of Franco as the incredibly idiotic Dave. It’s surprising to see that Seth Rogen is almost consistently outshined by James Franco in almost every scene. Perhaps it is intentional, but almost every line and gesture made by Franco is hilarious as he portrays the idiotic man-child. Equally brilliant is Randall Park who disappears into the role of Kim Jong-Un and is able to capture the balance between being funny and “likeable” to terrifying the next. The Interview is not the strongest film in Rogen and Goldberg’s collaborations. But it is certainly the most well directed and absolutely worth seeing.