The Interview (2015) – Review

All publicity is good publicity. Someone in the Sony head offices is surely etching those words into the wall at this very moment. Despite the hacks and cyber terrorist threats which saw the company  initially pull the release (because terrorists were really going to plant a bomb in every cinema across the globe), The Interview has already made a fortune through VoD sales. When they finally decided not to cave in to silly threats, so much hype had been built up about the controversy that even those who otherwise wouldn’t have been much interested in a vulgar James Franco/Seth Rogen ‘bromedy’ wanted to rent a copy and see what the fuss was about. Simple curiosity has given the film a huge opening before it’s even opened, which has inevitably led some to ponder whether the whole thing was orchestrated from within the company in an effort to boost sales. Cue spooky conspiracy music.

In any case, this review is intended to discuss how funny the film is, not the politics around it, so let’s get this out the way now: is The Interview really that controversial? No. Granted, it probably won’t be Kim Jong-un’s favourite movie (unless he can take a joke) but there’s nothing in here worse than what South Park gets away with on a weekly basis and we all love that (incidentally, screenwriter Dan Sterling used to be a staff writer on the show). The Interview didn’t strike me as racist, or as a piece propaganda, or even particularly defamatory towards North Korea – it’s satire, and it’s is funny.

Franco plays Dave Skylark, host of entertainment news show Skylark Tonight, who, along with his best friend/producer (Rogen), receives an invitation from the North Korean government to conduct an interview with their supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, at his home in the North Korean mountains. When the CIA hears of this they rope the two into executing a plan to kill the dictator in an effort to end his tyrannical reign, but things become complicated when Skylark develops a close friendship with Kim. Think of it as the love child of Pineapple Express and Spies Like Us.

If you tend to be tickled by the Seth Rogen sense of humour, there’s easily enough in The Interview to make you laugh consistently, and perhaps the most surprising thing about the film is that James Franco is the funniest thing in it. He’s a slightly odd character these days; it could just be because he was so brilliantly convincing as a stoner in Pineapple Express, but you get the impression he’s constantly high with a slightly flippant attitude towards life. Complete assumption, of course, but remember his turn as Oscar host? His portrayal of an hugely immature TV host, on the other hand, who throughout the course of the film consistently raises the crude bar while forming a bromance with Kim, is as hilarious as it is vulgar. This would be a good opportunity to sample a joke, only it would likely be too rude.

While “politically astute” may not be the first phrase to pass your lips upon leaving, Sterling’s script does have a backbone to it that goes beyond throwaway humour and sex jokes.  There’s at least something resembling a commentary on current global affairs lurking in there, either cleverly or unwittingly hidden behind Seth Rogen and James Franco being idiots, but the reason the film probably works is because it doesn’t try overly hard to be satirical, even though it is. It’s quite happy to just sit back, be silly and ladle on the jokes like a scatter gun. Submit to the comedy and you might just have fun.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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