Saturday, January 10, 2015
THE INTERVIEW review
At this point, nearly a month after the height of the hacking controversy, anything that could be said about "The Interview" almost goes without saying. The movie has been think-pieced to death. By now, everyone's simply sick of talking about it. However, having seen the movie over a week ago, and giving myself time to let it all sink in, now is actually the best time to talk about the quality of the movie itself. You already know the behind-the-scenes insanity that surrounds this film, I'm just here to talk about the movie. Is that cool?
James Franco is his own worst enemy. Correct that. The overexposure of James Franco is his own worst enemy. But, then again, Franco is pretty much solely responsible for that overexposure. He writes and directs nearly a half-dozen movies a year. They are usually poor adaptation of famous novels that everyone wishes he'd leave alone. They limp into theaters, nobody watches them, and then they wind up on Netflix. So it goes.
He's been in a cult-hit TV show, he co-starred in a blockbuster trilogy, and he has an Oscar nomination under his belt. It's almost passe to talk about Franco's accomplishments because it's frequently what people talk about when they talk about the actor. He just loves being prolific. The problem for him is that most of the product he puts out there is subpar.
"The Interview" is his third major film collaboration with Seth Rogen. For some reason, even though Franco could've probably capitalized on his Oscar-nom success that was "127 Hours," it actually feels like he needs Rogen more, at this point, then Rogen needs him. Seth Rogen already had a pretty huge hit this year with "Neighbors," where he co-starred with Zac Efron. His directorial debut "This Is The End" was also a huge critical and financial success.
Thing is, regardless of where they're both at in their careers, we should all be giddy at another collaboration between these two actors. Franco and Rogen has the potential to become a classic comedy duo. They were extremely fun to watch together in "Pineapple Express" and "This Is The End," and from the outset, "The Interview" looked like it could be another riot too.
The overexposure of James Franco has made that not the case, however. And despite, all the hype, the buzz, and the craziness that surrounded this movie, in order to really capitalize on all the controversy, it needed to be great. The actual movie needed to be the icing of this clusterfuck cake. Unfortunately, "The Interview" isn't a great movie, it's merely good. It had the undeniable hook: Rogen and Franco, playing TV producer and an "entertainment news" journalist (respectively) are given the task of assassinating North Korea leader Kim Jong-Un under the guise of an interview.
I always loved the ballsiness of the premise and, actually, I love the ballsiness of this movie in a lot of ways. It's just a shame that script does not necessarily sustain a level of satire that is needed in order for the film to really work. Each pointed joke regarding either American foreign policy or North Korea's complete disregard for its citizens is countered with a tired dick joke.
The slack mentality of the Pineapple Express and This Is The End characters made it ok for Rogen and co-writer Evan Goldberg to slather the film with an abundance of dick jokes. But, in The Interview, those types of jokes tend to get in the way of what is otherwise some pretty good satire.
The movie definitely has its fair share of highs, don't get me wrong. A surprise cameo at the beginning of the film was good for a nice, hearty laugh. The initial interactions between Franco/Rogen and North Korea was also pretty great. "The Interview" had some hilarious moments, especially when it incorporated elements of the spy movie into the comedy. It was even better when it took a surprise turn in the second act, where Franco's character Dave Skylark actually finds himself indentifying with North Korea's supreme leader. I thought the movie really entered into some interesting territory there.
Unlike "Pineapple Express" though, the movie really loses steam when the action starts. I'm usually not put off by violence in movies, but the extreme violence in some of the action sequences here just did not seem to fit within the movie's overall tone. Of course, I've always been a proponent of showcasing violence for what it really is, but in a movie like this? I just want to laugh at the end of the day.
And you know what? I laughed a great deal. Rogen delivered a solid performance, James Franco laid it on thick here and there but he still had his moments. Randall Park, portraying Kim Jong-Un was the movie's MVP, however, he portrayed the dictator with just the right inflection. You despise him, but a part of you really wants to like him. And in that respect, I felt Rogen and Goldberg did a great job in their portrayal of Jong-Un.
The bottom line, though, is that the movie needed to have more clarity in its satire. Much like "Pineapple Express" was Rogen/Goldberg's riff on the buddy-action film and "This Is The End" was their stoner take on the apocalypse, "The Interview" should have been their riff on the spy movie, but they didn't go all the way. "The Interview" wanted to be too many things at once. "Team America: World Police" was able to balance the right amount of dick and poop jokes with good satire. But "Team America" was pure goofiness all the way through. "The Interview" just doesn't have a goofy, "anything goes" feel to it. It's shot pretty conventionally, especially in its action scenes. And it doesn't have enough manic energy to fully sustain itself for 110 minutes.
Having said all that though, this is far from being a bad movie. It's above average, for sure. It does not deserve to be in the conversation for Razzie awards, and while I understand some people were let down by the movie, thanks to all the hype, it's really a lot better than people are giving it credit for. So, yes, I quite liked "The Interview," I just think Rogen, Goldberg, and Franco could all do better than this.