The Interview, now infamous as the comedy heard around the world, has made its way into the mainstream, against seemingly overwhelming odds. Embattled studio Sony Pictures Entertainment, despite originally pulling the movie and announcing that it had no further plans to distribute it in light of threats and a crippling hack from the so-called Guardians of Peace, executed a stunning U-turn just a few days ago and began plotting a simultaneous theatrical and VOD release for the controversial film. The launch today was a success, victory having been snatched from the jaws of defeat – or at least at this juncture, that’s how it appears. So, now that The Interview is here, what was all the fuss about? As it turns out, not much.
Unfortunately, no amount of build-up can change the quickly perceptible truth that The Interview is far from the best film Seth Rogen (also directing alongside Evan Goldberg) and James Franco have tackled together. In fact, when you look at the stars’ past collaborations, which include stoner classics Pineapple Express and This is the End, The Interview is probably their least successful work to date. Sparsely funny and narratively over-familiar, it’s a surprisingly mediocre film, especially considering its inflammatory subject matter.
In this ludicrous buddy comedy, about two numbskull journalists (Rogen and Franco) tapped by the CIA to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un during an exclusive face-to-face interview, the lion’s share of the jokes revolve around the characters’ juvenile fascination with bodily fluids, boobs and bromantic love. Some of the humor works in a throw-everything-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks kind of way, but most gags drag on for such an uncomfortably long stretch of time that even Rogen and Franco seem to sense them wilting. In particular, apologies are owed to supremely talented co-star Lizzy Caplan, who is routinely ogled in a series of unfunny exchanges, then dismissed from the story like a lesser-name supermodel in a Michael Bay movie. And even regardless of how well the jokes land, basing so many of them on something so puerile feels like a missed opportunity.
There’s no doubting the filmmakers’ audacity, given that they crafted (at least what was supposed to be) a blockbuster comedy around two dumbasses trying to kill a real, living person. But that they didn’t take that extra step to produce a film that actually addressed, or at least effectively lampooned, the real horror of life in North Korea comes as a disappointment. There are many great movies, and maybe even some great comedies, to be made about the rogue nation (which is essentially one large concentration camp containing several even worse, smaller concentration camps), but The Interview is not one of them.