‘The Interview’ Review: A Movie Not Nearly as Interesting as Its Controversy
It’s kind of a strange thing to write about ‘The Interview’ now, right? Its place in culture will always be defined by the Sony hacks that preceded the movie’s release. Is any other film defined so sharply by events that were out of that movie’s control? I suppose there’s a comparison to be made to ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ (not a comparison between lives being lost and the computer hacking of a big company, but of a film being associated with an actual world event), because it’s hard not to think about Aurora, Colorado any time I watch that movie.
Sure, movies spark controversy all the time, but that controversy is still inherent to that particular movie’s plot or casting (‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’ is a good example of that), but this reaches further. I can backtrack a little bit and make the case that the plot of ‘The Interview’—an assassination attempt again North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong-un—did directly lead to all of this, but who really knows? It’s being thrown around as an excuse, but it’s still not 100 percent clear why this happened.
The truth is, ‘The Interview’ is pretty dumb. It’s kind of amazing that this nonsense has sparked an international crises of sorts. The movie really doesn’t have much interesting to say—to be fair, it’s a comedy, why should it?—so I have to imagine all the bewildered higher-ups at Sony thinking, Was all of this worth it for THIS movie? (I suspect their answer is “no.”)
The plot focuses on an inept talk show host, Dave Skylark (James Franco, who is the most “James Franco” he’s ever been; even more than when he played James Franco in ‘This is the End’), and his producer, Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen), who are seeking respectability. After discovering that Kim Jong-un is a fan of Skylark and his show, they ask for an interview, which is granted—it’s the ticket to ratings and respectability.
The CIA has other plans. An agent (Lizzy Caplan) convinces the duo to secretly poison Kim Jong-un while they are both in North Korea. Dave and Aaron agree; hijinks ensue.
‘The Interview’ has legitimate laugh out loud moments (an early scene with Eminem is one of the funniest scenes of the year), but the momentum is hard to maintain. This is basically a remake of the Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd movie, ‘Spies Like Us’: Two bumbling morons are sent off to do espionage. And the thing is, when it is like ‘Spies Like Us,’ ‘The Interview’ actually works. (I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence.) Dave and Aaron make a funny team! Especially because they don’t know what they are doing! The problem is, Kim Jong-un (Randall Park) wins over Dave Skylark and the two become friends. (I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence either.) This friendship between Skylark and Kim Jong-un lasts a significant portion of ‘The Interview’ and is basically just a bunch of scenes of the two playing basketball in slow motion, blowing stuff up with a tank, and talking about how they both hate their dad, all set to cool music.
The problem for ‘The Interview’ is that the real-life events surrounding ‘The Interview’ are much more interesting than ‘The Interview’ itself. (Though, ‘The Interview’ is insanely violent for a comedy, which would probably be getting a lot more attention if it wasn’t for everything else going on.)
After watching, a viewer's immediate reaction will probably be, “What’s all the fuss about?” (I saw ‘The Interview’ back in October, before the leaks were a story, and have found myself bewildered by all of this.) If the real Kim Jong-un watched ‘The Interview’ (and, with the leaks, he probably has by now) his first reaction will probably be, “Perhaps we overreacted” ... and his second reaction would probably be executing someone because I’m under the impression he does that a lot anyway.
Mike Ryan has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and GQ. He is the senior editor of ScreenCrush. You can contact him directly on Twitter.