Friday, December 26, 2014

'The Interview' review

What started as another raunchy entry into the filmography of Seth Rogen and James Franco has slowly turned into one of the most talked-about films of the year. The Interview has sparked outrage from the country it parodies, support from Americans who believe in free speech and ultimately, it has cost Sony millions of dollars. Like the characters in some of their films, Rogen, Franco, and co-director Evan Goldberg are in way over their heads at this point, with a controversial film that has become an international crisis. For some, it will be very hard to separate the film from the controversy. Lots of critics have panned the juvenile humor of the film, saying that this ribald comedy was not even remotely worth the hype that has surrounded it.


That may be true, but have you seen any of Seth Rogen's other movies? The Interview is coming from a guy whose last movie included a fight with dildos and a scene where a baby chews on a condom. Seth Rogen is not a sharp satirist. He's a profane comedian who takes ridiculous situations and concepts and does something hilarious with them. That's what he does with The Interview and he does it extremely well. It's one of the funniest movies of the year and another knockout from the guys behind Neighbors and This is the End.

In The Interview, Dave Skylark (James Franco) is one of the most popular TV personalities in America. His hilarious, over-the-top show features all the fun news and the tabloid stories that the real news stations don't cover. Skylark's producer and best friend, Aaron Rapaport (Seth Rogen), wants to cover real news. When Skylark learns that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un (Randall Park) is a fan of his show, Aaron manages to snag an interview with Kim. But when the CIA finds out about the interview, they have a different idea in mind. They propose that the two head to North Korea and assassinate the Supreme Leader, allowing the totalitarian country to start fresh. The two bumbling idiots must find a way to survive in Korea and kill the leader of the most dangerous country in the world.

Rogen and Franco have made some terrific films together in the past, and their chemistry shines in this film. Man, these two are great together. The two play off each other so well and you feel that friendship that often comes off as forced in lesser buddy comedies. Despite that great chemistry, Franco steals the show. He gives an unhinged, completely hysterical performance in this movie. Dave Skylark is an instantly iconic character, a sweet, yet moronic fool with occasional flashes of maturity. Franco simply goes for it and he lets nothing get in his way. He takes over this film and steals the spotlight in every scene.

Rogen's performance is more subdued but he's funny as well. His chemistry with Franco allows him to play off of some of his more hilarious moments, which ends up working perfectly. All in all, the two leads in this film are terrific and they carry the movie through some of its slower patches. The supporting cast is also brilliant, with Randall Park and Diana Bang both giving terrific performances. Park's Kim Jong-un is perfect and Park manages to capture both sides of the dictator. Bang plays Sook, one of the more sympathetic characters in the film. She does a good job and has some very funny scenes with Rogen.

The script is peppered with obscenities and crude, sophomoric humor that isn't necessarily ambitious. But seriously, did you expect anything different? I understand that there's potential for satire with this movie, but we were never going to get that from Rogen and Goldberg. However, I was always confident that we were going to get a funny movie and they definitely deliver. The film has its slow parts, but there are so many clever one-liners and there's a bounty of hilarious dialogue as well. Rogen and Goldberg deliver the goods with this script.

This is very much a film of three acts. The first act is the TV stuff and the CIA prep, the second act is all the North Korea action, and the third act is the actual interview/assassination. A lot of people have seemingly had a problem with the second act, but I thought it was just fine. The stuff with Skylark and Kim is hysterical and the unexpected relationship between Aaron and Sook is very funny as well. Sure, a few things could have been trimmed here and there, but I thought that the second act worked as a whole.

However, the third act is when things get absolutely bonkers. The Interview is one of the most violent studio comedies I've ever seen. Seriously, this thing gets crazy. Not only does this film feature the exploding head of Kim Jong-un (not a spoiler- seriously, this was on the new), it also features a couple of gruesome headshots, some intense finger biting, and a tank rolling over the heads of an entire North Korean convoy. Rogen is unafraid of doing goofy comic violence in his films and The Interview is certainly no different.

Technical elements like cinematography and set design are typically unimportant for a big studio comedy, but I feel like they're worth pointing out here. The Interview has some pretty spectacular sets and some cool cinematography as well. This is as much an action movie as it is a comedy and Rogen and Sony definitely put some money towards the action elements. I also enjoyed the use of music in this film. There is no score per say, but there's some pretty catchy songs during certain parts of the movie.

In the end, this is a movie that will make you laugh. It will make you laugh very, very hard. There are bits in this movie that I will remember for an extremely long time. But not only is this movie funny, it's well-constructed and extremely exciting as well. The characters are engaging and the subject matter is consistently amusing. While some of the humor is strictly in Rogen's wheelhouse, I still feel like this is his most ambitious project yet. It's not as gutsy as Neighbors or as risky as This is the End, but this is a big-scale project with major setpieces and a topic that most filmmakers wouldn't touch.

When it comes down to it, that's why I like Rogen and Franco's films. Sure, I enjoy the profane humor and the sex jokes. And I like the over-the-top, bloody action. But when it comes down to it, I like that he just goes for it. His films are rarely safe. There's always something that's refreshing about a filmmaker who has the guts to continually push things to a different level. Maybe he pushed things a little too far this time, but that's okay. The Interview was still an insanely fun movie and it works again and again (I've seen it three times now). And to everybody who doesn't like this film, just remember: "Haters gonna hate.....and ainters gonna ain't!"

THE FINAL GRADE:  A-                                            (8.6/10)



Image Credits: Movie Pilot, BBC, Deadline, Rolling Stone,  Death and Taxes, Hollywood Reporter 

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