Courtesy of Sony Pictures Releasing

Dueling Critics: The Interview

03:30 December 29, 2014
By: David Vicari, Fritz Esker

We all know the situation. The Interview is a comedy about the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jung-Un. The studio that made the film, Sony, was hacked and warned not to release the movie or there will be dire consequences. Sony got scared, pulled the movie from release, but then they grew some balls and decided on a limited theatrical release as well as making it available on-line. The biggest joke here is that a sophomoric comedy loaded with dick and fart jokes has become a symbol of freedom. 

  Anyway, in the film we are introduced to Dave Skylark (James Franco), obnoxious host of a celebrity tabloid show, and it turns out that North Korean tyrant Kim Jung-Un (Randall Park) is a big fan and would like for Skylark to come to North Korea and interview him. Skylark's producer, Aaron Rapaport (Seth Rogen), is not so sure it's a great idea. The CIA, however, thinks it's a terrific idea - because they want Skylark to assassinate Kim Jung-Un!

David: So, we are here to say if the movie is actually any good. I felt it was hit and miss, ultimately mildly amusing. What was your reaction?

Fritz: Mildly amusing is how I'd describe my feelings, too. I enjoyed the film's media satire; the movie eviscerates American media as much as it does Kim Jong-Un. Skylark's show is emblematic of how modern "journalism" favors feel-good fluff over substance. Instead of asking hard questions, Skylark wants to take the path of least resistance, as long as it provides stellar ratings for his show. The minute he's treated as a friend by Kim Jong-Un, he just becomes a fanboy. I felt The Interview was at its strongest when the satire was aimed at Skylark.

The film's other asset is Randall Park, who plays Kim Jong-Un. Park's had small roles in several comedies, but this is his first real showcase and he does well with it. He makes what could've been strictly a cartoon feel like a real character (a comedic one, no doubt, but still an actual person).

What about the film worked for you?

David: Yes, Park is good, as are the women in the film - both Lizzy Caplan as the lead CIA agent and Diana Bang as one of Kim Jong-Un's handlers have amusing moments. Or maybe they just honey-potted me.
And yes, the skewing of American media is pretty funny, my favorite scene being the opening with Skylark interviewing rapper Eminem. However, I don't think the film is in any way a political satire. It's just a silly comedy in the vein of, say, Spies Like Us (1985).
Although it kind of lags in the middle, The Interview is energized by an action-filled finale that contains over-the-top amounts of gore. The biting off of fingers scene is pretty hilarious.

Fritz:The Spies Like Us comparison occurred to me as well while watching it. I actually didn't like the biting scenes; I felt the film's efforts at shocking, over-the-top violence/gore fell flat (as they did in Rogen's Pineapple Express). A lot of the more R-rated gags also missed for me. There are two scenes where a man has something shoved up his ass; neither were funny. But I do agree with you that the opening scene with Eminem was one of the film's high points.
You're right; this is not a political satire. It doesn't aspire to be To Be Or Not to Be (1942) or The Great Dictator (1940). So the controversy surrounding it is largely inappropriate. Although I find it odd that in many ways it seems like a backlash took place before the film was even released. I saw several articles saying it was a shame that such a fight was occurring over a lousy film. While it's not a classic like the ones I just mentioned, The Interview doesn't deserve to be tossed onto the rubbish heap, either. It seems like the kind of movie that will play well at home on a rainy afternoon, much like Spies Like Us (although New Orleans film buffs should reward Chalmette Movies for having the guts to show it).

Before we wrap this up, where do you rank this in Rogen's filmography?

David: Yes, I think some were thinking this to be some smart political satire because of the controversy and were disappointed when it turned out not to be. But it does entertain on the level of the dumb, rude comedy that it is.
I think this one ranks somewhere in the middle on the Rogen scale. He and co-director Evan Goldberg scored more laughs with last year's This Is the End. Knocked Up (2007), Paul (2011) and 50/50 (2011) rank much higher, but The Interview is far superior than The Green Hornet (2011) and Observe and Report (2009).

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