The Interview review

It seems highly likely that The Interview will now be remembered primarily as the film at the centre of one of the most high profile hacks in history and not, as might otherwise have happened, as a somewhat satirical and occasionally amusing comedy. When it comes to stickiness, those two ideas just don’t compare.

For many of those who go to see The Interview in UK cinemas this week, or pick up the newly released US DVD or Blu-ray, it probably won’t be to keep up on the latest from Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen and James Franco, but rather to see what ‘all the fuss’ is about.

This weight of expectation leaves The Interview looking a little lacklustre. How could it ever have lived up to its pre-release reputation as the film that almost started a war? We should perhaps try to remove it from this wider story, where it’s easier to see that there’s a fair bit to praise.

The Interview hits the ground running, with the introduction of the film’s two protagonists, TV presenter Dave Skylark ( Franco) and his producer Aaron Rapoport (Rogen), and their recruitment to a CIA plot to kill North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un (Randall Park). Whilst the film may get going at a pretty brisk pace, the early scenes featuring Skylark’s chat show, Skylark Tonight, actually provide some of the more effective satire in the picture, and set up an interesting comparison point that will eventually pay off rather well.

Scenes in which Rob Lowe reveals that he is bald and Eminem that he is gay can simply be read as amusing, throwaway gags about celebrity culture, but the way in which they’re are mirrored by the eventual interview with Kim Jong-un evoke some interesting ideas about idolatry and culture in general.

Late in the film, Kim points out that the US has incarcerated more of its citizens than North Korea, which provides a quick jab at American attitudes, though sadly, it is all too quick a jab.

Dan Sterling‘s script, as adapted by Goldberg and Rogen, unfortunately does far too little with some of its subject matter, and the film too often skims the surface of its ideas, rather than plunging into them.

Similarly, an early sequence in which Eminem comes out and the suggestion of unresolved sexual tension between Skylark and Rapoport also give way to nothing more than tiresome ‘gay jokes’ and the kind of anally fixated humour that sadly appears to be taking hold hold of contemporary American comedy.

The filmmakers also try to employ a delicate kind of self-aware racial comedy where we are supposed to be laughing at these racist idiots and not with them, but this too makes for some regrettable jokes whenever the target isn’t hit dead centre. It’s often up to the infectious charisma and obvious chemistry between the two leads to get us past these less well-developed scenes.

Rogen and Franco are tapping into a rich cinematic history of comedic double acts and they equip themselves well for the most part. Franco is particularly funny as an over-confident clown; it’s actually quite a feat to play a character that is incredibly stupid without really overdoing it and Franco does an excellent job.

But the real star of The Interview is Randall Park as Kim Jong-un. The character has been written in such a way that Park needs to convince the audience that KIm is all at once a fearful dictator, a frightened child, an obnoxious bro and a master manipulator  which means we’re never quite sure when he’s being serious or sincere.

One scene in which Kim loses his temper and essentially threatens the start of World War III is a chilling reminder that there is a real Kim Jong-un, in a position of terrifying power, and asks the audience to consider how similar the real life figure might be to the eccentric character we’ve been enjoying on screen.

The Interview is not the stupid, exploitative mess that the backlash had implied, and I’m glad that Rogen, Goldberg and Franco have taken a satirical swing at Kim. I just wish their aim had been a little sharper, and that their punch had packed a bit more weight.

The Interview is in UK cinemas now, and has been released on DVD and Blu-ray in the US today.