By Christian Burney (Savannah, Georgia)
The Interview, the newest action comedy from James Franco and Seth Rogen (Pineapple Express, This Is the End), has been thrust into the public eye after alleged threats from North Korea nearly shut down its release. After plenty speculation over the movie’s fate, Sony Pictures elected to release The Interview online through services like Google Play and YouTube Movies. Some laughingly called the film the catalyst of World War III. What we got was a film full of poop jokes, erections, and sometimes even a laugh.
We follow the adventure of Dave Skylark (Franco), the eccentric and shallow host of “Skylark Tonight”, and Aaron Rapoport (Rogen), who yearns to escape the petty celebrity news cycle to deliver quality, professional journalism. When they discover Kim Jong Un, dictator of North Korea, is an enormous fan of the show and wishes to be featured in an interview, Aaron believes he’s finally hit it big – until the CIA interferes and assigns the pair a hit job. What follows is an unexpected journey through Kim Jong Un’s palace, mottled by almost excessive references to The Lord of the Rings, boners in pajamas, and James Franco cartooning around with the Dear Leader himself.
Franko’s character is, at his best, naively endearing, and, at his worst – the majority of the 112 minutes, unfortunately – a manic mess with a taste for the overly dramatic. The amount of energy Franko puts into the role is somewhat reminiscent of Jim Carrey’s work – except, without the hilarity – and what’s more annoying than his constant barrage of exaggerated smiles is his inexplicable propulsion to wipe his fingers across Rogan’s face. He’s so “touchy-feely”, always playfully hugging Rogan or slapping him on the back before exclaiming about how great Pyongyang is. What’s most flustering, outside of Dave Skylark, himself, is to see Rogan go along with it.
Rogan’s character, Aaron, is nearly always agitated by Dave’s antics, yet he hardly attempts to set him in his place. Kind of like how North Korea is dealt with in the real world. There isn’t even an obligatory “bro breakup” scene. Just bickering, and bickering, and bickering. The fact Aaron would even travel with Dave to North Korea is a hard pill to swallow.
In fact, the film suffers in general by how hard it is to follow. Instead of a smooth and steady blend of comedy and drama, like in Rogen and Franco’s own Pineapple Express, we’re given serious scenes and comedy bits in blocks. No apparent order. It’s pacing is confusing and erratic, like much of Franco’s performance, and makes the film as a whole feel somewhat unfocused.
The Interview is nothing special, despite what Sony, North Korea, and the media might have you believe. It’s been labeled as a “dumb comedy” and “another stoner movie” and, while those exact phrases are harsh, they aren’t far off. With more focus, perhaps The Interview could have been the next Pineapple Express – movie with dick jokes, violence, and memorable characters. But as it is, The Interview is a trivial flick that says nothing of North Korea that we haven’t already heard, and uses banal, predictable comedy to do it.