Box Office Democracy: “The Interview”
The Interview is a movie doomed to collapse under the weight of all the external nonsense forced upon it. It is not a movie worth being called an act of war. It is not a movie worthy of being the standard bearer for free speech against real or imagined tyranny. It’s not a movie worth the total public embarrassment of Sony Pictures. It’s just a stupid comedy. I don’t even mean “stupid” pejoratively here, it is in the same grand tradition of stupid comedies that has brought us movies like There’s Something About Mary and Caddyshack. Both movies I like a great deal, neither of them worth an international incident.
When it’s on, The Interview is quite funny. The bit with Eminem that I saw all over Facebook this weekend is my favorite so it’s a shame that that’s in the first ten minutes of the film. Otherwise the film hits on more joke attempts than it misses. Seth Rogen and James Franco have an undeniable comedic chemistry and it’s just fun to watch them bounce of each other. Randall Park is outstanding playing Kim Jong-Un, as is his Veep co-star Timothy Simons in a terribly small part. It’s also important to recognize Diana Bang who is fantastically funny as the leading lady in this film, a part that often doesn’t get a ton of space under the Apatow-Rogen film umbrella but Bang is electric and hopefully gets to do bigger and better things in comedy going forward.
The entire movie is dragged down to mediocre by a poor second act. After the first round of North Korean hijinks, the movie grinds to a halt as the characters slowly get in to their positions or the finale. This leads to a seemingly endless number of scenes of conversations that move the plot along at a glacial pace while not being particularly funny. It’s inexcusable. Add this to the frequent book-report-esque need to put in North Korea facts and statistics and there’s a lot of drag pulling down what might have been a better movie set in a fictional country.
I appreciate that Rogen, along with his directing partner Evan Goldberg, are continuing to be ambitious with their visuals. It would be very easy (and probably profoundly more profitable) for them to continue making Superbad knockoffs until they all died when their houses collapsed from carrying too much money, but much like This is the End there’s a lot going on here. Sure, they’re taking advantage of the fact that no one has any idea if North Korea looks like the outskirts of Vancouver but there are some real sets here and an honest-to-goodness war at the end. When you compare it to the costless dreck that you get from Adam Sandler or the Twilight movies and it’s just so nice to see people take a simple guaranteed paycheck and make a movie that’s actually interesting to look at on a screen. This sounds like an incredibly backhanded compliment but it’s becoming less and less common.