The Interview with Seth Rogen and James Franco | Film review by Steve Bennett

The Interview with Seth Rogen and James Franco

Note: This review is from 2014

Film review by Steve Bennett

So this, of all things, is what escalated the West’s standoff with the terrifying North Korea? The Interview is a predictably dumb piece of Tinseltown brain-candy that would have slunk quickly into obscurity had Kim Jong-Un not thrown his toys out of his pram. Thankfully those toys are still non-nuclear.

But you can see why the Supreme Leader might have got the hump, since the movie makes the most defamatory accusation possible against him: that he is a big fan of Two And A Half Men.

The on-screen despot also loves the celebrity tittle-tattle served up by the fictional tabloid TV show Skylark Tonight, and its host Dave Skylark, played by James Franco. As the entire world – with the exception of most North Koreans – must now be aware, the plot is that he and his producer Aaron Rapaport (Seth Rogen who also co-wrote and co-directed this) are granted an interview with Kim… an opportunity the CIA wants to use to assassinate him.

Both of these unlikely hitmen are, of course, dumb overgrown teenagers, since this is a mainstream Hollywood comedy and that is the only character trait ever portrayed in such a movie. The duo have desires to make a journalistic splash but are let down buy their dumb-and-dumber mentality – ‘this could be the next Frostie/Nixon!’ Skylark enthuses. The irony that this film equally trivialises any of the regime’s atrocities in favour of a cartoony villain is, of course, lost.

KJU may be spoken of in the same breath as Hitler or Bin Laden, but when our anti-heroes get to Pyongyang, the dictator turns out to be just as much as a party-loving douche as Skylark, so cue montages of cavorting with his hired band of naked chicks….

The Kim character takes a central role, and might be the only thing that distinguishes The Interview from any other frat-house pap – but it is a poor derivative of how Trey Parker and Matt Stone so brilliantly portrayed his lonely father in Team America: World Police.

And derivative is exactly what The Interview is. Jokes involve camel toes, a gag about smuggling something up the arse, and even phrases like ‘love you long time’ and ‘me so solly’ that always get trotted out about anyone East of Arabia. Skylark has his crisis of loyalties, ultimately does the right thing, and ends the movie with a big set action piece, all boxes duly tricked.

The Interview isn’t so much a bad film as an entirely vacuous one, just doing by numbers exactly what is expected – even if the backlash was far from expected. Although it’s perhaps ironic that the staged interview at the heart of the plot is all about Kim trying to keep tight control of the public image of himself, the very flaw that has caused the tit-for-tat cyber-war between America and North Korea.

And now watching The Interview has become a defiant support of free speech and the right to blow raspberries at tyrants – as evidence by the $15million it took online over the weekend. Others have suffered a lot more for such a principle, so you can probably endure two hours of visual musak that should, by rights, have remained firmly in the background.

The Interview was released online in the US at the weekend, but is not yet legally available in Britain.

Review date: 29 Dec 2014
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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