Directed by: Seth Rogan, Evan Goldberg || Produced by: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, James Weaver
Screenplay by: Dan Sterling || Starring: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Randall Park, Lizzy Caplan, Diana Bang, Timothy Simons, Anders Holm, Charles Rahi Chun
Music by: Henry Jackman || Cinematography by: Brandon Trost || Edited by: Zene Baker, Evan Henke || Country: United States || Language: English
Running Time: 112 minutes
Rest easy folks, all is right with the world. Seth Rogan and James Franco’s previously censored new film is now in theatres (and on Video On Demand), North Korea’s internet crashed, and the White House sent another obligatory legal “fuck you” to that reclusive troll of a douche-bag nation. Was The Interview a good movie? Well, I thought it was, but in all seriousness the matter of Rogan and Franco’s latest film doesn’t really concern its actual objective artistic quality. This acknowledgement is a rarity coming from me, a cinephile who generally prides himself on viewing and appreciating art for art’s sake above all else, one who judges documentaries for how they argue rather than what, one who analyzes films to see if they succeed or fail as films first, and acknowledges all other sociopolitical and economic influences secondarily.
However, this special case with The Interview and the Sony hacking/death-threat fiasco supersedes arguments of cinematic quality because it concerns something greater: Artistic freedom and expression. While I will always fight for artistic quality over any social, financial, or escapist agenda that tends to latch onto film production, the matter of artists being prevented from producing any cinematic projects (however crappy or great they may or may not be) by any corporate or government entity is a disturbing situation that should provoke anger and uproar from any reasonable lover of democracy and freedom of expression. Ignoring the gravity of a situation like this is not an act of defiance or maturity, but rather an act of giving up.
Is The Interview actually any good? Again, I’d say that it is, but again, that’s beside the point. The important thing is that we all had the opportunity to watch it (or not watch it). As George Clooney said, we can’t have somebody like Kim Jong-Un tell us what we can and can’t do. Fuck, he’s the last person who should be able to tell anybody to do anything.
In any case, The Interview actually is quite a funny comedy for those of you who were wondering. I had a good feeling about the film after watching the infectiously funny trailers. Normally I’m not a Seth Rogen-comedy kind of guy, and in the past whenever I watched trailers for his previous films I had little to no reactions to them, similar to the actual feature films themselves (e.g. Knocked Up , Zack and Miri Make a Porno , Pineapple Express ). Even many of the films he only had supporting roles in (e.g. The 40-Year Old Virgin ) didn’t do much for me because most of the comedy he tends to be associated with are just generic stoner-flicks with weird skits involving creepy sex and bizarrely bloody violence. Again, why are comedies able to have such explicit, creepy content but action, science-fiction, and fantasy (basically almost every other genre) have to be family-friendly nowadays?
In any case, The Interview enters mostly uncharted territory for its new leads. It’s a full-on political satire that hilariously lampoons the pyschopathic excesses of its North Korean subject matter, including and especially Kim Jong-Un. Along the way, Rogen and Franco take time to poke fun at the shallow, celebrity-gossip obsessed mainstream media of the United States (a common target of American satire since the creation of Hollywood), featuring some incredibly well-executed cameos by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bill Maher, and Marshall Mathers.
The film ends with a great action-packed finale that manages to build on the story’s fantastic pacing far better than a much more evenly hybridized action-comedy like Tropic Thunder (2008) did. Though Rogen’s penchant for raunchy bathroom humor and weird unnecessary spikes in gore occasionally sneak through, for the most part he and Franco manage to keep their toilet humor and borderline caricature roles to a minimum to allow the parody to breathe.
The Interview’s consistent ace-in-the-hole is Randall Park’s great turn as the North Korean dictator himself. He somehow manages to play a hilarious parody of the infamous political figure while paying tribute to the character’s actual demented insanity and even extensively humanizing him. How Park managed to turn Kim into a semi-sympathetic, realistically tragic character who we genuinely feel for (while also laughing at/with) is a feat I’ll never understand.
In the end, what I’ve noticed about people’s general reactions to the movie is that those who like Seth Rogen’s older, more typical films seem to not be so hot on this newer brand of satire, while those like me who live and breath on sociopolitical satire are much more receptive. The Interview is far from the most tenacious satire out there even in recent memory, but for its part it packs an admirable comedic punch topped off by some surprisingly potent action and dedicated lead performances. If you don’t like political parodies in the vein of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report and would rather spend your time with fart jokes and awkward sexual humor a la Adam Sandler films or some of Rogen’s earlier movies, then that’s a shame; if you have the minimum patience required for the film’s satire, however, I recommend you make the effort to drive the extra half hour to your local independent theatre to see this gig. Now let freedom ring, motherfuckers.
SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATION: Rogen and Franco decide to mature beyond the glorified stoner-comedies of their past and embrace hard-nosed satire to take down one of the most ridiculous political regimes of the modern era. They take no prisoners. Randall Park is on fire as the deranged yet oddly sympathetic Kim Jong-Un. You’ll never listen to Katy Perry the same way again.
— However… some of Franco’s caricatured acting grows tiresome, while Rogen’s fascination with shoving objects up his ass and having people bite off his body parts threaten to overwhelm the effective satire around them.
—> RECOMMENDED: It doesn’t reinvent the comedy wheel, but as far as timely political satires are concerned, you could do much worse than The Interview.
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