The Interview (2014)
★★ / ★★★★
Following the one thousandth episode of Skylark Tonight, a television show specializing in silly entertainment interviews, the fame-hungry host, Dave (James Franco), comes across a piece of evidence that the notorious Kim Jong-un (Randall Park) is a big fan. Dave suggests to his best friend and show producer, Aaron (Seth Rogen), that they ought to try to interview the man because it would surely reel in the big ratings and it is a chance for Aaron to be taken seriously by his peers. The producer is not convinced that the North Korean government will even entertain the idea so imagine his surprise when he gets an official call offering to initiate the process.
“The Interview,” based on the screenplay by Dan Sterling, offers a very funny first half but begins to wilt around the halfway point. A comedy that dares to have a running time of slightly below two hours should have some serious firepower that propels it forward. This film neither has the endurance nor the consistency to be riotously funny all the way. Notice that the second hour drags. Perhaps it might have benefited the final product if it had spent more time on the cutting room floor.
Standing out right away is Franco’s performance as a dim-witted narcissist. Though his histrionic ways of expressing his character’s fervor for the job may prove divisive, his energy makes up for the some of the jokes that do not work on paper nor in execution. I liked that he appears willing to do whatever it takes to get a laugh. The joy in the performance is infectious and one can make a convincing case that the character must be played with a flair for the dramatic given the very nature of his occupation.
Rogen is an effective sounding board for Franco’s constant exaggeration. He plays it smaller but not so minimized that his character fades into the background. Thus, we believe the Dave-Aaron partnership within and outside of the show. It helps that the actors have a slightly different style of comedy and in physicality. As a result, the bromance between them, purposefully awkward at times, works for the most part.
Less amusing is the drawn out section involving the television host and the dictator forging an unexpected friendship. Though I was amused by it initially, I grew tired of it just as quickly. There are only so many ways to keep things fresh between the two especially when we know exactly where the story is heading. More specifically, we know that chaos is bound to happen during or after the interview so it is most unnecessary to withhold getting there. The picture is far from efficient.
Lizzy Caplan who plays a CIA agent assigned to maneuver an assassination attempt is completely wasted. She has no funny line and does nothing particularly interesting or surprising. Caplan plays one of the two women who is supposed to have an important role in the plot, but her talent is not utilized in such a way that would make us like her or see more of her other than to look good in a power suit.
Directed by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen, “The Interview” has hilarious cameos during its opening scenes and so the bar is set quite high. Although several attempts are made to meet it, not one is able to surpass it. Particularly painful and a bore to sit through are the action scenes in the third act. It is plain and simple laziness.