At this point the Seth Rogen / James Franco combo flick is like a specific flavor of ice cream: either you’re crazy about the stuff or you turn your nose up and choose something else. Despite the wild amount of controversy surrounding their latest film — most of it due to a massive computer hack of the film’s production company — and the filmmakers’ particularly volatile choice in material this time around (a venomous de-pantsing of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un), The Interview is pretty much what fans should expect: the slightly stuffy Rogen and the smoothly idiotic Franco wandering through a bizarre scenario while bickering, bantering, and cursing up a storm.
Perhaps looking to up their status from farce experts to master satirists, Rogen and Franco have a lot more on their mind than the marijuana-fueled action of Pineapple Express or the goofy metaphysical madness of This Is the End. This time around, they’re taking on North freaking Korea! And while the film is hardly a political satire on par with Dr. Strangelove, the final result is certainly solid enough.
What The Interview earns in sheer audacity it loses amidst some random plotting, a ferociously schizophrenic tone, and a simple tendency to wear out its welcome, both in individual scenes and as a whole. But despite a few slow spots and a couple of groan-worthy gags — you’ll probably still laugh a lot. Doubly so if you already love these goofballs.
Despite its admirably ballsy “high concept” plot — two Americans are invited to North Korea to interview the notoriously reclusive Kim Jong Un, only to have the CIA force them to attempt an assassination — The Interview is at its best when Rogen and Franco are simply riffing off one other. For all its big ideas and elaborate set pieces, nothing in The Interview is as funny as when the two lead actors disagree on something. (A bizarre argument involving the words “ignorant” and “arrogant” is the funniest thing in the entire film.)
The Interview has an action finale, several extended visual gags, and an elaborate bit involving a rocket, a tiger, and someone’s butt — and yet none of this stuff is funnier than the simple, frantic quips from Franco and Rogen, which makes one wonder why we need all the expensive stuff in the first place. Fortunately we also get some much-needed female support in the form of a loveably deadpan Lizzy Caplan and an out-of-nowhere scene-stealer named Diana Bang, who goes from an ice queen to a potty-mouth in truly funny fashion.
So if The Interview will entertain the established fans well enough, how does it play as a political satire? Not quite as well. The film stretches one joke — that Kim Jong Un (an excellent Randall Park) manipulates the ego of TV host Dave Skylark (Franco) so flawlessly that he (almost) becomes brainwashed — to its breaking point, although it does pay off in a pretty violently amusing style.
Co-directed by Mr. Rogen and frequent collaborator Evan Goldberg, The Interview isn’t quite as refreshing as Pineapple Express, nor as wonderfully weird as This Is the End, but it is clear evidence of funny guys trying to deliver something beyond basic stoner comedies. The flick is a bit scattershot, frequently unfocused, persistently immature, and generally sort of all over the place — but it’s also sort of unique, more than a little audacious, and frequently hilarious.
3.5 out of 5 burritos