VOD film review: The Interview
Silly Lord of the Rings jokes7
Mark Harrison | On 10, Jun 2015
Directors: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen
Cast: James Franco, Seth Rogen, Randall Park, Lizzie Caplan, Diana Bang
Watch The Interview online in the UK: Netflix UK / Amazon Prime / iTunes / TalkTalk TV / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Sky Store / Google Play
For a minute there, it looked like The Interview might be the most important comedy of the 21st century. Now that everyone has calmed down a little, this looks less like an act of war than a supremely silly and surprisingly even-handed political comedy from a pair of directors who are going from strength to strength.
The context of the cultural flashpoint that led to its eventual VOD release on Christmas Day in the United States will always be fascinating, but the film was never intended to stand up to that status, despite unexpectedly becoming that in the process of beating terrorist-mandated censorship.
In case you missed the specifics of the plot when it became an international news story, Dave Skylark (Franco) hosts a facile chat show, Skylark Tonight, in which he prides himself on scooping intimate but ultimately inconsequential stories about celebrity culture. Alas, 1,000 episodes in, his producer Aaron Rapaport (Rogen) feels embarrassed by their popular brand of gutter journalism.
As it turns out, their most unlikely fan is North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un (Park), and Aaron and Dave are able to bag an exclusive interview with the supreme leader. But before they set off for North Korea, CIA Agent Lacey (Caplan) shows up and politely asks them to use the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity they’ve been granted to assassinate him.
It would be a mistake to completely dismiss the context behind this in any review, but the film holds up now just as well as it did on release. In fact, it benefits from not bearing the weight of international scrutiny. What we have here is not The Great Dictator, or even Team America: World Police, but a modernised Crosby/Hope-style Road to… movie, which happens to take pot shots at the state of affairs in both the east and the west.
It’s also a reminder of how important it is that we don’t confuse “silly” with “stupid”. Park pretty much steals the film with his ingenious caricature of Kim Jong-un; pitiful and terrifyingly unpredictable all at once, he brings the house down throughout the film. Next to Franco’s aggressively ignorant Dave, you almost sympathise with him at certain intervals.
As seen in Bad Neighbours, Rogen is growing into the straight-man phase of his career with gusto, as Aaron watches Dave get bamboozled Dennis Rodman-style by the public-facing exterior of life in North Korea. The film boldly posits that the Kims are to North Korea as the Kardashians are to Hollywood, and often reaps hysterical results, especially when running gags about The Lord Of The Rings and Katy Perry’s Firework come to their jaw-dropping punchlines.
It looks yet more impressive in comparison to the last directorial effort from Rogen and Goldberg, This Is The End, in which the Apatovian beta-male acting fraternity had to survive the Rapture. This is an even darker hook on which to hang a film, but it has a tighter structure than that apocalyptic sketch-fest.
There are a couple of set pieces that could have been cut for time – such gross-out bits, such as Aaron inserting a “robot’s dick”-sized capsule of ricin into a certain cavity, seem like concessions to Rogen and Goldberg’s audience. The more satirical side, though, is both smarter and more inclusive towards that same audience and that’s why this feels like a graduation of sorts.
Whether you can separate from the controversy or not, The Interview is well worth a watch for its pop-culture savvy approach to political satire. It’s not the greatest American comedy ever made, but it never really needed to be. Rogen and Goldberg never intended to give us an Archduke Ferdinand in cinematic form, but purely on the strength of their filmmaking here, you get the sense that they have more important work still to come.
The Interview is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription. It is also available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.