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Interview, The
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Ironically, Rogen & Franco Are The Ones Serving Up A Dog. . ."
1 stars

Granted, there was probably no way that the controversial new comedy "The Interview" could have ever possibly lived up to the hype and notoriety that it has achieved over the last few weeks. However, not only does this film fail to reach the heights of a classic like "Dr. Strangelove" (still the gold standard for outrageous political satire) or even a perfectly serviceable comedy like "Spies Like Us" (a film that has actually held up fairly well in the three decades since its premiere, presumably because blundering incursions into foreign lands in order to justify the existence of the military-industrial complex will seemingly never go out of style), this doesn't even match the wit, intelligence or edginess of the average skit from this season's iteration of "SNL" and if you have been watching "SNL" this season, you know what that means. The whole enterprise is a grim and shocking limp conclusion to one of the stranger international news events in recent memory and will no doubt send most viewers away with the Peggy Lee standard "Is That All There Is?" ringing in their ears.

By now, most of you presumably know the basic setup for the film but for the rest of you, a quick recap. Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen) and Dave Skylark (James Franco) are, respectively, the producer and star of "Skylark Tonight," an infotainment program dedicated to such hard-hitting topics as Miley Cyrus's camel toe and Rob Lowe's real hairline. Dave is content with being king of the shallow end of the journalistic pool but Aaron yearns to do something a little more serious with his career and that chance comes when it is discovered that one of the show's biggest fans is none other than Kim Jong-un (Randall Park), the reclusive totalitarian leader of North Korea. Using his love of the show as an in, Dave and Aaron put out an offer for Dave to interview him on the show and are shocked when he agrees to do it, albeit entirely on his own terms right down to giving them the questions that he will allow to be asked.

Despite the perception that they are just being used by Kim, Dave and Aaron are giddy over their get but after an evening of celebration (cue the inevitable montage of drug-fueled debauchery) the two are visited by Agent Lacey (Lizzy Caplan), a CIA agent who wants to exploit their unexpected in with a minor request--surreptitiously kill Kim with a dose of slow-acting poison to be delivered via handshake. They agree and are soon off to Pyongyang and immediately begin screwing things up left and right. Eventually, Dave meets Kim and finds himself thrown off by his surprisingly gregarious nature--turns out he is all about shooting hoops, blowing up things with a tank, grooving to Katy Perry and commiserating about their shared daddy issues. Meanwhile Aaron finds himself driven to distraction by Sook (Diana Bang), Kim's sexy chief propagandist and someone who may have her own agenda going on as well.

"The Interview" is the brainchild of Rogen and Evan Goldberg, whose previous film was the literally apocalyptic comedy "This is the End," a pretty funny work whose greatest sin was that it went through its surplus of good ideas so quickly that it finally ran out of them about 20 minutes before the movie itself ended. That is definitely not the problem this time around--instead, they and screenwriter Dan Sterling have barely come up with any ideas at all other than its basic premise and certainly not any funny ones. Actually, the basic premise isn't exactly all that creative either--the idea of making a film based around the proposed assassination of a current world leader has been explored in the past in ways both comedic (the exceedingly odd Hal Roach programmer "The Devil with Hitler) and dramatic (remember that "Death of a President" nonsense from a few years ago?)--but this film does so little with it that you and your friends could slip out to the candy counter for a few minutes and come up with more inspired ideas than those on display here. I would have liked, for example, to have jettisoned the journalism angle (no big deal since the film has no burning interest in it other than as a plot device) and had Rogen and Franco play themselves a la "This is the End" and meet Kim themselves --the representatives of one propaganda machine meeting their match in the head of another--before using their star power to literally change the world.

Instead of going for any pointed political jabs beyond the broadest and most obvious jokes imaginable (the screenplay is so determinedly anti-radical in this regard that it doesn't even offer up the suggestion that perhaps the CIA shouldn't be in the assassination business to begin with), we get dumb gags involving large objects being shoved up rectums, explosive bodily emissions, casual sexism (the CIA agent objects strenuously to the suggestion that her only qualification is her seductive potential but since the script doesn't give Lizzy Caplan anything else to do but display her cleavage, the protest rings a little hollow) leading up to the inevitably gory final act in which multiple fingers are chewed off and Kim departs in a spectacularly violent and and not particularly funny coup de grace. Other than that, the film doesn't even really try to do much of anything else--if it had, it might have earned at least a little credit for the effort--and drags so unmercifully long at times with its rambling storyline and improvs gone bad that by the time Kim Jong-un finally makes his first appearance at nearly the hour mark, many viewers will have long since given up on the whole thing. (In that sense, it is a blessing that this is currently being made available on various VOD platforms--it is always easier to walk out on a weak movie in the comfort of your own home.)

Of course, if they do walk out before Kim's first appearance, it would be a shame because Randall Park's performance in the part is the closest thing that "The Interview" has to a good thing. His disarmingly goofy turn is actually kind of interesting and Park is flexible enough as a performer to actually allow a few bits of genuine character shading to what is obviously meant to be a crazy comedy--there is an actual sense of pathos when Dave says that people believe him to be batshit crazy and he replies "I'm 31--the fact that I am running a country is batshit crazy." As the propagandist who finds herself unexpectedly enamored by Aaron, Diana Bang brightens up her scenes as well but unfortunately doesn't have enough of them to make much of a difference. By comparison, Rogen and Franco could not be lazier and more unfocused in their roles if they tried and believe me, they aren't--Rogen is playing just another variation of the basic character he has played many times before while Franco is so aggressively awful that his work here is the omega to the alpha that was his jaw-dropping performance in "Spring Breakers." As per forma for a film like this, "The Interview" finds room for a few cameo roles by familiar faces and not one of them even comes close to scoring a laugh.

In essence, "The Interview" is basically the cinematic equivalent of a 2 Live Crew album--a crude, stupid, pointless and lazy piece of hackwork that somehow managed to transcend to instantly forgettable garbage to a celebration of free speech through circumstances too bizarre to believe. (Trust me, a film about the story behind "The Interview" would be much funnier than the film itself.) Had it just been allowed to come out without all the cyber-saber-rattling and threats of violence, there is an excellent chance that it would have sunk like a stone once the word of its shoddy nature got out there. Now, it will not only probably have a longer shelf life, despite the oddball distribution, in the long run, but there are people out there who actually have the audacity to suggest it as a contemporary equivalent of "The Great Dictator," Charlie Chaplin's classic spoof of Adolph Hitler. Trust me, this is no "The Great Dictator"--it isn't even "A Countess in Hong Kong"--and if anyone tries to claim it as such, it means that either they haven't seen "The Great Dictator" or they haven't seen "The Interview." If it is the former, then shame on them. If it is the latter, then good for them.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=25933&reviewer=389
originally posted: 12/25/14 23:02:45
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User Comments

1/24/15 mr.mike It is better than Spies Like Us. 4 stars
1/08/15 bunny101 Terrible. Should have never been released. 1 stars
1/06/15 Bob Dog Uncharacteristically tasteless review title for usually reliable Sobczynski. 4 stars
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  25-Dec-2014 (R)
  DVD: 17-Feb-2015


  DVD: 17-Feb-2015

Directed by
  Seth Rogen
  Evan Goldberg

Written by
  Seth Rogen
  Evan Goldberg
  Dan Sterling

  Seth Rogen
  James Franco
  Lizzy Caplan

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