The Interview

The Interview Movie ReviewColumbia Pictures
Rated R for pervasive language, crude and sexual humor, nudity, some drug use and bloody violence.
Running time: 112 minutes.
One and a half stars out of four.

This is what all the fuss was about?

A movie composed almost entirely of dick jokes, ass jokes and bromantic homoeroticism was the cause of an international incident? In retrospect, it all seems so lame and more than a little depressing. The cyberhacking of Sony Pictures, the release of reams of private information, the terrorist threats against theaters, the back-and-forth on whether to show the movie to audiences at all — what a waste of time and energy.

Now, finally, after all the mishegoss, you can see “The Interview” from the comfort of your own home through video on demand or in the company of friends at a local, independent theater. Score one for freedom. (In case you’re wondering, I watched the movie on my laptop on YouTube the day after Christmas while my son watched “Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones,” again, in the living room. He got the better end of that deal, I’d say — just barely.)

But just because you can see it, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should. The Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy isn’t aggressively terrible; it’s just overlong, repetitive and obvious in its raunchiness. At the core of this comedy, which Rogen directed with friend and frequent collaborator Evan Goldberg, lies a statement about the often outrageous intersection of politics and pop culture. They are clearly trying to Say Something. In execution, though, there’s a prevailing air of striving for a level of satire that the makers have neither the tools nor the intellect to achieve successfully.

It makes you long to see what someone like Jon Stewart (or John Oliver) would do with this sort of concept. A decade ago, “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone took a far more savage bite out of the United States’ tense relations with North Korea with the brilliant “Team America: World Police.” And they did it in song — with puppets. Rogen and Goldberg, who previously co-directed “This Is the End” and co-wrote “Superbad,” merely have taken their trademark brand of lowbrow humor and transferred it to a different continent. (Dan Sterling gets screenplay credit.)

Franco stars as Dave Skylark, a smarmy entertainment journalist who hosts the network show “Skylark Tonight.” His “Pineapple Express” co-star, Rogen, plays Aaron Rappaport, his longtime producer. Inviting celebrities on air to reveal their juiciest secrets has been good for ratings (and some of the cameos here are legitimately funny — namely, Eminem’s). But Aaron longs to be taken seriously, especially after running into an old pal from journalism school who’s now a producer for “60 Minutes” — and who looks down on Aaron for pumping out trash TV.

Rogen is doing a variation on the persona he so often plays in movies: a little shaggy, a little profane, a little bemused at the ridiculousness of daily life. But Franco is oddly stiff here. He’s not flashy or charismatic enough to be a Ryan Seacrest type, but he also doesn’t have the gravitas to function as an Anderson Cooper figure. We never get a hold on the character, who mainly ends up reacting to the increasingly strange and dangerous situations in which he finds himself.

When Aaron discovers that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is a fan of the show (and American pop culture in general), he works hard to secure an interview with him in Pyongyang. The lead-up to the actual agreement is fraught with Asian stereotypes regarding names and accents and whatnot, which theoretically is intended to make Americans seem small-minded. More often, though, this feels like an easy, silly bit: “Did you say China?” Aaron says during a phone call. “And did you just say Dong?”

But before Aaron and Dave can hop on a plane and travel halfway around the world, CIA agents Lacey (Lizzy Caplan) and Botwin (Reese Alexander) knock on their door and ask them to assassinate Kim by poisoning him. Naturally, they’re a little freaked out by this proposition, but they also like the cool gadgets they receive. First, though, they connect with Kim’s aide, the sexy Sook (Diana Bang), who, like Agent Lacey, is mainly meant to function as eye candy but with a few glimmers of intelligence.

Kim himself (Randall Park) arrives about halfway through the movie, nervously giddy to meet his celebrity hero. Similar to the way “Team America” portrayed his father, Kim Jong Il, “The Interview” depicts him as a lonely and misunderstood man who longs for bros with whom he can hang. Dave happily joins him in drinking margaritas and shooting baskets as well as enjoying lap dances and blowing things up with a tank, which also makes him reluctant to go through with the assassination attempt. Kim is the most interesting and complicated character in the film, ironically, and the scene in which he and Dave bond over their shared love of Katy Perry’s “Firework” is actually kind of sweet.

“The Interview” also toys with the clever notion that presenting Kim on television as a regular guy with feelings — and not a mythological god who never has to relieve himself — would do just as much damage to his power and his legacy, and it wouldn’t be as messy as killing him. That kind of subtlety is rare here, though.

More often, “The Interview” is about Dave spraying a bottle of champagne all over Aaron’s chest in slow motion to suggest he’s ejaculating on him. Or it’s about just how far Aaron can hide a secret piece of equipment up his ass. (Just when you think this particular gag is over, it crops up again. And again.) Or it’s about protracted “Lord of the Rings” analogies that don’t exactly work the first time. And ultimately, it all reaches a gory and over-the-top action climax that feels like a jarring shift from the adolescent humor that preceded it. Fuck yeah, indeed.

22 Comments on “The Interview

  1.  by  Doug Bruner

    I wanted to see this movie until I read Christy’s review. Thanks, Christy! You saved me from wasting my time and money.

    •  by  4k ultra HD

      ‘m utterly floored that an author who is so wrapped up in PC-ness that she wants to re-imagine Santa as a penguin isn’t amused by an immature bro-comedy.

    •  by  ivan

      First of all, this will be the last time I read one of Christy’s reviews. She’s very one-sided when it comes to films. I’ve learned that if a known Critic rates a film one star out of five, you could possibly add two if not three stars. The same concept goes with high rating movies but counting opposite (I hope I make sense). If you notice there’s always (at least) 10-15% difference between critics and users at rottentomatoes.com, this should be an eye opener for movie enthusiasts, what is it that the people prefer? rather than bias personal opinions. Christy mentions that this movie composed of dick and ass jokes, well, what did she expect? Seth has always done movies with those themes. It’s this same ignorance of the topic that makes me stay away from critics’ reviews, most have nothing positive remarks about any film and films lose popularity like with people that base their own preference on reviews like this. I won’t tell you to watch it or not, I’m just saying that you should decide if the movie is for you or it isn’t. Personally, I’m 100% done with known critics all of their reviews are so dry and hateful but I end up enjoying the films anyways.

  2.  by  Trevor

    I just watch The Interview, and I thought it was great! But there is a problem here about managing expectations when watching this. Sure, there’s a little bit of subtext there, but it’s mostly about the dumb scatalogical humor. But it’s very, very funny. I think that this movie has garnered so much controversy that people are now expecting this to be something hugely revolutionary and daring. It’s not. It’s just a silly fun movie that got swept up in some unfortunate events.

    I do think that the filmmakers should have done something more with the premise. Give it a little bit more political satire. But what was here was solid, and I didn’t find the raunchy humor force, nor did I find the third act shift jarring. Over time, we began to see Kim Jong Un slowly turn more menacing, and the entire movie begins to grow darker. It kept me at the edge of my seat, ready for shit to go down. And boy did it!

    The way I would describe this movie is as if Quentin Tarantino directed The Hunger Games: Mockingjay-Part 1, with a screenplay written by Seth Macfarlene.

    So yea, I’m a little disappointed that Christy didn’t like it, but it was a well thought out review, and I appreciate her thoughts. But I loved it! Hopefully, this movie doesn’t come to disappoint everybody. It surely didn’t disappoint me!

    •  by  Trevor

      Oh yea, and I also wanted to comment on the film’s production values. It was a beautiful movie to look at. They really spent their money well. It just sucks that it’s now gonna cost Sony.

  3.  by  Rich Marks

    I think this review is way off the mark. This review is a reaction to “all the fuss” w the hacking etc, but this movie being made had nothing to do with that. These guys (rogan and co.) made another hilarious movie. IMO better than In The End and closer to the level of Pineapple Express in terms of being funny. It has a constant flow of wit and humor. Very well done. Hilarious.

    I am only leaving this comment so people who read this review above don’t miss a great comedy. This reviewer seemed to want it to be about something ‘bigger’ due to the hacking and hype, but that’s just playing even more into the hackers credibility. ITS A SETH ROGAN COMEDY. If you like Rogans previous work, you’ll love it. It’s one of his best!

    •  by  Clement

      No… she reviewed the film poorly, not based on unjustified expectations, but due to the film being little more than a collection of grade-school dick and sex jokes (seriously, Seth and co really need to grow up or get laid… or both). It offers little in the way of appealing characters or suspension of disbelief, and any signs of a serious message are completely obscured by the juvinality of it all.

      It may have been poking fun at North Korea’s leader, but it’s the Anerican’s who come off looking stupid in this one.

  4.  by  Campbell

    Obviously you just aren’t into this type of humor. Yeah its not very well developed satire like Colbert or Stewart but that doesn’t mean its bad it is just for a different audience. And if you don’t like a certain genre of comedy you should either not review that genre or let your audience know that at the very start of the review. The Interview was never suppose to be a heavily developed satirical comedy. It was suppose to be about to drug attics assassinating the dictator of North Korea. I’m pretty sure everyone knew from the beginning what they were getting into with this comedy, and I doubt anyone was expecting a Stewart level of comedy.

  5.  by  Jesse H.

    Aw man. But that’s okay. I-I didn’t really want to see this movie anyway… *kicks dirt*
    🙁

  6.  by  Jenny

    This review is spot on and it’s sad that such a pathetic film made my untalented juveniles is at the core of all this controversy.

    Couldn’t get though this movie and I’m guessing the only people who enjoyed it are junior high school students or maybe people who are stoned.

    •  by  Bobby

      Exactly,,,I prolly would have liked it more if I
      was 18 again…on acid. Lol

  7.  by  Swish

    I would say this review is spot on; probably some of the lesser quality work from Rogen and Franco. Production value was huge, but the gags were too safe; maybe those two things have a relationship to each other. More than half the jokes fell flat and there was next to no real satire; the subject material ended up kind of failing completely and the plot was loosely done.

    Neither of their characters really get fleshed out besides – “a skit with Franco and Rogen as ‘people with different names.'” A wacky publicity venture, with some gore and toilet humour; its definitely worth seeing if you are a fan or have bias of either of the leading men’s work. In my opinion though its some of their worst comedic work, or just work.

  8.  by  Daniel

    I have no idea if the movie is good or not, but Im shure you look exelent.
    After looking at you, I forgott what I was looking at.

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  10.  by  Betan Testravosky

    This was one of the few times I did not reference Christy before seeing the latest that Hollywood shoveled out. I watched it streaming – and Christy was right, don’t even bother with it unless your IQ is less than your shoe size and you like Elementary School Boys Lavatory penis humor. Why studios waste their time and money with Seth Rogen projects is beyond me … Sony deserved to get hacked for this, whatever it was supposed to be.

  11.  by  Ana

    This movie is far from being funny or sarcastic , it’s for teenagers, dumb teenagers , that’s it.

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  13.  by  John Doe

    Anyone who saw this movie and didn’t expect it to be one big dick and poop joke hasn’t been paying attention to Seth Rogen’s career for the past ten years. This is the equivalent of building up your expectations and then being let down because it isn’t an instant classic. But negative reviews are worse than people who stole or shared. I bet the terrorists like your negative reviews.

  14.  by  Chi

    I wish I had read this review before going to waste my money on watching this movie at the theatre. I think this review is spot on and echoes my feelings about the movie.

  15.  by  Michael

    I 100 percent agree with this review. A majority of the people who viewed this movie did solely based off of the controversy surrounding it and the fact that Franco and rogen were in it . The plot is weak. The execution (of the plot ) is pathetic . Best case scenario , like being drunk for example , I’d give his movie 2/5.

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