VOD Review - The Interview

This controversial film was made available on Netflix on January 24 after it was released to digital platforms like Google Play and iTunes just prior to a limited theatrical release on Christmas Day 2014. It stands as the highest-grossing VOD release at $15 million, a number perhaps driven by all the hype and news coverage surrounding it.

It's the third film starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, and it's their least effort. It ranks at the bottom for them. It provided them an opportunity to do great satire, but they squander it. It falls to typical toilet and slapstick humor that is their default, which is sad because both have proven that they're smarter and that they could do something smarter like a North Korea satire, yet they don't rise to the challenge. They'd rather show things going up people's butts.

The first third of the film is pretty solid, but, by the end the whole thing becomes a waste.  The movie builds to a TV interview that's really hyped up, yet when the actual interview arrives on screen, the film practically skips over it, gives it very short shrift, if you blink, you miss it, and shows how pointless and utterly empty the screenplay and ultimately the movie is.

James Franco plays Dave Skylark, the host of a talk show that does one-on-one sit-downs with celebrities. Seth Rogen plays Aaron Rapaport, the producer of that talk show called Skylark Tonight. A friend who works in TV news teases Aaron about his show being non-important because it is all celebrities. When Dave tells him Kim Jong Un is a fan of Skylark Tonight, Aaron pursues having Kim Jong Un on the show. He succeeds and once he does, the CIA approaches them with a plan to assassinate Kim Jong Un.

In addition to the toilet humor, there's a lot of sexual innuendo and Lord of the Rings references. Like with Rogen and Franco's previous films Pineapple Express and This is the End, the focus is a bromance and the friendship between two men and continues the theme and tone that has been hit hard since Superbad (2007) and reinforced in recent films like 21 Jump Street and 22 Jump Street (2014). Even though Dave and Aaron agree to take part in this secret plan to kill Kim Jong Un, their friendship is tested when Dave begins to bond with Kim Jong Un, played by Randall Park.

One of the big themes in this film is the idea of manipulation or simply seduction. It's called "honeypotting" here. Aaron is constantly battling Dave's stupidity, and Aaron tries to maintain journalistic integrity and maintain sanity, but Dave keeps talking him into going against his instincts. Kim Jong Un talks Dave into thinking they're two peas in a pod. He also unknowingly talks Dave into not wanting to kill him.

Now, there's one of two ways that this film could have gone. One way is that Dave and Kim Jong Un remain friends and the movie could have become a spoof on the whole Dennis Rodman and Kim Jong Un friendship in real life. The other way is Dave turns against Kim Jong Un and does try to kill the North Korean president and dictator. Either way, as the movie plays out, there's not enough scope. There's not enough of North Korea. There is no sense of that country or the people in it. Aaron visits China briefly and we get more of a sense of China, its landscape and culture than of North Korea. Obviously, there's intentional obfuscation there, but you still come out knowing less about North Koreans than you did going in.

Writer Dan Sterling and directors Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen insulate the story and make it all about the friendship between Dave and Aaron. They also throw in as many dick and poop jokes as they can. They have potential gold when eventually Dave and Kim Jong Un sit down to have the titular interview. The movie invokes Frost/Nixon but doesn't have the gumption to rise to that challenge. Dave and Kim Jong Un don't even talk a minute before the film is cutting to cartoon violence and more butt jokes. The filmmakers here were perhaps incapable of crafting a verbal tête à tête between Dave and Kim Jong Un, or they're so juvenile as not to care.

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated R for crude and sexual humor, nudity, some drug use and bloody violence.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 52 mins.


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