The Interview Directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (R)

January 13, 2015

After taking on the apocalypse in 2013’s This Is the End, directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg take on an even more volatile enemy with The Interview, their farcical take on North Korea. Lost in a haze of aimless improvisation and dreary dumb guy antics, The Interview isn’t a lethal weapon. It’s merely a mediocre movie that isn’t nearly as funny as it should be.

 

Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures

The Interview isn’t a dangerous weapon. It’s a mediocre movie that isn’t nearly as funny as it should be.


A dimwit daytime talk show host, Dave Skylark (James Franco) is the best in the business, his interview style skillfully dragging out intimacies from his guests. However, his producer, Aaron (Seth Rogen), aims to take on “real news” for a change, trying to win some respectability in a cutthroat industry.


After North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (Randall Park) rattles the world with a missile launch, Aaron receives the opportunity of a lifetime when he’s informed that the Supreme Leader is a huge fan of Dave’s and wants to be the subject of an hour-long interview.


Realizing a dream to go legitimate, the duo prepare to visit North Korea, only to be stopped by the CIA, with Agent Lacey (Lizzy Caplan) demanding they assassinate Kim Jong-un, using a handshake laced with a ricin strip.


Taking in the enormity of the plan, Dave is quickly seduced by the Supreme Leader. The pair bond over Western pursuits, while Aaron finds an ally in Sook (a charming Diana Bang), a military official looking to introduce democracy to North Korea.


Despite a reaction to the film from the nuclear-ready country and its tyrannical leader that prompted Sony to briefly delay its release, The Interview isn’t a dangerous movie; it’s a silly one. Rogen and Goldberg, along with screenwriter Dan Sterling, make a concerted effort to relax the audience right away, stripping away real-world fears with a healthy display of absurdity.


The premise is surprisingly simple. Dave and Aaron train with the CIA to pull off the ricin-infused handshake. As they enter enemy territory, they’re welcomed as friends and taken on a rehearsed tour of fraudulent North Korean stability.


Dave is especially taken by the display, fascinated with Kim Jong-un’s God-like presence in the country, focusing on the proclamation that the Supreme Leader has no anus, and thus no need to eliminate waste. The movie relentlessly recycles this joke.


Once the men are settled into their hotel, preparing for the kill and the big show, The Interview takes off on a few sluggishly executed tangents with minimal interest in wit. There’s a tiger encounter that’s more odd than humorous. Aaron is subjected to a hasty bout of anal smuggling when an American drone drops a container of additional ricin and he is forced to shove the metal cylinder up his rear before he’s captured by guards.


There are numerous poo-poo pee-pee gags, along with fruitless exchanges of improv comedy, when the plot deserves a sharper edge of satire. Between Franco’s constant punchline whiffing and the feature’s limited scope, The Interview lacks the energy to do anything more than take random jabs at predictable targets.


Where Rogen and Goldberg score big is the seductive aspects of Kim Jong-un, who lures Dave into friendship by offering orgies, one-on-one basketball time, and a shared appreciation for Katy Perry.


The Interview gets most of its limited laughs here, making the Supreme Leader such a sneaky guy that he almost baits the audience to consider his friendship. It’s the lone bit of complication allowed.


The finale devolves into graphic violence, and it’s disappointing to find The Interview so quick to play dumb when it actually contains a few sophisticated moments, suggesting that between bong hits, the production was onto something.

 

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