“The Interview” is… Good Enough?

“The Interview” is a movie made more relevant because of the circumstances surrounding it rather than the movie itself. News outlets, entertainment media, and even Obama have made this movie out to be more-or-less an event.
It’s not.

That’s not to say that it’s bad. In fact, it’s actually quite good in places. But, the fact remains, with the terroristic threats and the unprecedented (and frankly entertaining) Sony hacks, one might wonder if the movie would get any play at all if the controversy wasn’t trumped up and blown up by various media outlets. The ultimate undoing of this film is not the film itself. And that is particularly tragic. There was no way this film could possibly live up to the epic drama surrounding its making. So, when watching this, I tried to separate this from the real-life shenanigans that swirled around it since late November.

As a movie, completely and totally separate from all the bullshit, it’s pretty solid. It’s not great. It finds a nice comfort spot in being good. Just good. It’s funny (for most of its runtime… more on that in a sec). It scores some pretty interesting dramatic situations. And, what I found most surprising is that the movie looks GORGEOUS. The cinematography, the richness of the production design… All the money is there onscreen. I haven’t seen a comedy pay this much attention to its visuals in a long time.

The film’s plot is solid (if somewhat flimsy when given further thought). It surrounds a celebrity tabloid talk show host Dave Skylark (James Franco), and his producer Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen). They’re generally disrespected by their colleagues for essentially feeding the American public trashy television. When the opportunity to interview Kim Jong Un (Randall Park) appears, they see it as a way to legitimize themselves to the general public. But, the plans change when the CIA asks the pair to assassinate Kim Jong Un. Obviously, things don’t go as planned.

As with any of these Seth Rogen comedies, there is a formula. That formula is becoming more apparent with each movie he releases. This time around, we’re getting a formula sorta/kinda similar to Superbad. There’s two guys, one smart, the other dumb & crass. They have different ambitions. They get caught up in an epic quest. That epic quest introduces a female love interest for at least one of these guys (or the female love interest is the reason for the epic quest). And then, plans get more complicated, and causes a rift between the two guys. But, then the two guys reconcile when the situation becomes a little more dire. Cue bromance. Then, the two guys execute their plan, and through dumb-luck, end up coming out of it okay (and one of them ends up getting the girl too). Of course, in between these plot points, you can insert dick & shit jokes to pad out the runtime.

You know… “This is The End” had a more original approach. That movie had several opportunities to bow down to the conventions of the genre. And, for the most part, it didn’t. Unfortunately for this movie, it is almost entirely an exercise in formula without the reward of something new.

However, that’s something most audiences won’t care about. Because where it counts, this movie works… It’s really funny for the most part. But, the movie does hit a pretty sizable dry spot somewhere in the middle, and doesn’t recover until the beginning of the third act. I understand why it has to slow down. It has to spend time (out of obligation) to develop Kim Jong Un’s character.

I think Randall Park’s performance as Kim Jong Un is part of the main reason why the middle of this film works. He somehow finds a way in his mannerisms and body language to make an otherwise despicable person somewhat relatable. Here, we get a tragic character given power when he doesn’t know what power actually is. Park builds off of that, and ends it on a note that makes us almost feel sorry for him… Almost.

Of course, predictably, Franco & Rogen have great chemistry, and play well off each other. These guys could do this shit in their sleep, they work so well. You get the impression that these guys have known each other for years. That’s unlike a lot of other movies of its kind where we are told this information rather than shown it.

If there’s one big thing I can’t forgive the movie for, it’s its length. The movie is not particularly long at all (just under 2 hours). However, this film (like a lot of comedies that come out of the Rogen/Apatow production house) feels like it needs about 10 minutes shaved off of it. There are scenes that feel like they’re only as long as they are to pad out the runtime. Scenes that stop being funny midway through are milked until dry.

Shakespeare once wrote “Brevity is the soul of wit”… That quote might be a lesson to apply to further Seth Rogen films.

All in all, “The Interview” is a good film for what it is. It could’ve been great. It could’ve had a cultural relevance that most comedies don’t have. Unfortunately, it will. But, it won’t be because of the movie itself. It’ll be because of the controversy around it.

Such a shame. It’s a good movie. But with so much hoopla, I wish the movie that was the cause of it was a little bit better.


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