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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Interview

The movie that almost started World War III. Well, not really but it's still funny to think that a silly Seth Rogen flick caused this much of a ruckus. Especially after seeing the thing.

This should also be up at Channel 24 at some point and I'l post a link if and when that happens.

What it's about

Dave Skylark, the charismatic but not too bright anchor of an entertainment news show, is invited for a once-in-a-lifetime interview with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. Before he and his best friend/ producer, Aaron Rapaport, head off for their rendezvous with the infamous “Supreme Leader” in his home country, however, they are enlisted by the CIA to use their almost unheard of close proximity to Jong-un to discreetly assassinate him.

What we thought

At this point, the Interview is far more famous for the bizarre circumstances in which it was released than anything within the film itself – and, honestly, that's probably for the best.

It's not absolutely terrible by any means as it does contain an above average amount of laughs for a latter day Seth Rogen vehicle and both James Franco as the affably slappable Dave Skylark and Randall Park who is pretty damn great as Kim Jung-un himself offer up a couple of very enjoyable comic performances. At the same time, Rogen himself along with newcomer Diana Bang and the always welcome Lizzy Caplan more than hold their own as the film's relative straight men (and women) and, even when it's not causing you to bust a gut laughing (which is most of the time really) its nearly two-hour running time goes by pretty painlessly.

The problem though, is that while it's perfectly OK as a very disposable, sporadically funny and dopey buddy-comedy, the film absolutely refuses to step up to the plate and do its potentially satirical, cutting and chutzpadik premise the justice it so absolutely deserves. The ludicrous over-reaction to it by North-Korean-sympathizing terrorists looks all the more silly when you consider just how infantile and safe the film ended up being. But then, terrorists have never exactly been known for either their sense of perspective or their ability to take a joke, now have they?

The biggest problem, I think, is that while the freewheeling and largely improvised Apatow-type comedy certainly has its charms – especially in the hands of Rogen, Franco and Goldberg, three of of Judd Apatow's most notable disciples – its lack of tight, disciplined gag writing is a huge problem for a film that's desperately in need of comedic focus.

Sure, some of the visual gags and one-liners do work but they don't do so often enough to disguise the fact that most of the comedy is ultimately inane and utterly toothless ad considering just how ripe a target North Korea so obviously is. Yes, the film does point out North Korea's atrocities but it does so more with lame moralizing than sharp comedy – and all things considered that's particularly unforgiveable for a film that's billed as a comedy in the first place!

In effect, The Interview is like the classic Captain America cover depicting the good Cap'n punching Hitler square in the face that was released at the height of World War II but instead of having Captain America punching Hitler, it had our hero cowering in the corner, waving an unsure finger, while Hitler takes up most of the cover - “getting all the good bits”, so to speak.

Mind you, on the other hand, the film's utter inanity might well be for the best. The film may feature a screenplay by Dan Sterling who has worked on quality and often very satirical TV comedy shows like the Office, South Park and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, but considering the rest of the team's pedigree it's probably for the best that they aimed below the belt rather than above the neck. Consider, for example, that the film's only clear (well, clearish) message is that a fun but intentionally irreverent and irrelevant entertainment news show has just as much chance to change the world as serious investigative journalism!

So, yes, maybe Rogen and co. should stick to what they're good at (stoner comedy, poop jokes and daft banter) and leave the sharp satire to those who actually know what to do with it. But then, if that's the case, why on earth did they see the need to set their latest goofy comedy in North Korea, in the first place?

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