The Interview (2014)

December 24, 2014 § 1 Comment

5 out of 10 or  C/C-

Interview

After all the hype, all the controversy, all the digital terrorism and counter-strikes, The Interview is upon us. After watching it ASAP once it was released on YouTube, I took this away from the film:

As a satire of the media, both in front of the camera and behind it, The Interview is aiming towards the heavens. It wants to be Frost/Nixon and Network meets Pineapple Express. Rogen has a history of imbuing his potty joke filler with outlines of thoughtful socio-political commentary (as evidenced by his impassioned speech on Capitol Hill imploring congress to fund Alzheimer’s research and legalize marijuana). Franco is obviously no stranger to attempting subversive cinema that is risky as entertainment and as art. With the Interview, they’ve attempted to blend all the elements of their comedic personas with their very real, personal convictions as thinking, caring, conscientious human beings. The results are mixed, leaning on the side of a failed attempt, though truly valiant and brave, if not actually heroic.

James Franco’s Dave Skylark, a boisterous talk show host feigning intellectual concern when really aiming for headline grabbing superfluousness is the main character through and through, with Rogen firmly supporting in both capacity and functionality. Skylark is incredibly annoying, spewing out a litany of ADHD-fueled innuendo and instantaneous reactions based on taking information at face value from the kind of people who benefit from stretching the truth to improve their image in one way or another. Rogen is his Executive Producer, watching and guiding him from a control room. Franco is kind of an unrestrained amalgamation of the worst parts of pandering interview talk show hosts with none of the wit or sharpness attributed to, say Bill Maher or Charlie Rose. Rogen’s character wants desperately to change this dynamic, to legitimize the show and take it from pandering fluff to hard hitting stuff.

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As such, the film has this weird combination of serious criticism of the Kim regimes, arrogant media personalities, manipulation of public perception, assassination espionage thrillers while being inundated with fart-joke humor and characters that are blithering and silly. It struggles and failes to strike the right balance of thoughtful seriousness and sharp, witty satire. Rogen plays the straight man. He’s not particularly funny except for a couple of sight gags. In fact this is nearly his most serious role to date, I would argue. The Kim Jong Un actor is…basically what I expected the film to portray. An overly friendly and hospitable playboy who is manipulating the western media for his own powerful gains while being the totalitarian and violent fascist that we believe him to be in real life, in the west.

The espionage material is shockingly dark and depressing, sprinkled with the weirdest assortment of gross out jokes. It’s also critical of United States policy while supporting the basic premise (assassinating pesky Axis of Evil type government leaders) being the solution as well. It also attempts to genuinely pull off a Frost/Nixon thing using an ego-stroking interview with Kim to expose his dark side.  So it’s 1/4 potty humor, 1/4 serious political commentary, 1/4 espionage thriller and 1/4 off the wall non-sequiturs that aren’t entirely comedy or tragedy. Just a mess of a film, but an ambitious swing and a miss.

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