December 22, 2014

Review: 'The Interview' – A Comedy of Wars

"They hate us, because they ain't us."
Seth Rogen James Franco | The Interview

After much controversy and an international incident about its political subject matter, The Interview finally gets to be seen and judged on its actual merits. Directed by Vancouver natives Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the film uses real-life geopolitics to mock itself and everyone. Filmed in Vancouver (doubling for both New York and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea), James Franco stars as a dim entertainment host who scores the eponymous interview with the shadowy communist dictator and cult of personality then is subsequently recruited by the CIA to assassinate him.

At its best, The Interview is almost entirely about media criticism as it satirizes and ridicules American exceptionalism. The often dumb, low brow racial and political humour scripted by Dan Sterling is always at the expense of its less than educated protagonists. What lags is the first act before we finally get to North Korea and rely on Rogen and Franco's charms and back and forth banter to sustain us until the all out antics of their idiocy in the Hermit Kingdom. The film revels in its own status as a dumb but fun, over the top, dude comedy full of the usual ludicrous antics and dick jokes.

The absolute standout and highlight is Korean-American actor/comedian Randall Park who takes on the unenviable task of portraying the fictionalized version of supreme leader Kim Jong-un. He is absolutely hilarious and bold in his nuanced conception of this manipulative cult figure born of a bro-y sense of ideology and humour. His multi-layered performance is aided by being largely unseen and only oft-mentioned during the first half as it wisely builds to his entrance. Soon, Franco's Dave Skylark starts to get enamoured with Kim, being seduced by his power, authority, and mutual love for Katy Perry.

Local actress and Assaulted Fish comedian Diana Bang plays the nation's minister of propaganda and stands tall exchanging one-liners and jokes with her seasoned counterparts. She's the most sympathetic and identifiable Korean character, while being unabashedly and amusingly bad ass, with her broad humour and entertaining execution. Actress Lizzy Caplan's CIA recruiter largely wastes her comedic talents and mostly uses her as a humourless exposition device to contrast Rogen/Franco's ineptness with her assured professionalism.

Rogen, Franco, and Goldberg have admirably cashed in their comedy credentials to take on the fallacy of global relations. The Interview is your typical, sophomoric Rogen comedy with a fun central "bromance" gone bad at its core between both Rogen and Franco and later Franco and Park's Kim. It uses the very real absurdity of the North Korean situation to mine its humour. However, it never quite goes beyond the mass appeal of its outrageous premise. Unlike the trio's This is the End, the film purely revels in its ability to mock and delight on its very existence. As such, it's a triumph more of free speech than of sharp comedy or satire. Through no fault of its own, The Interview is much less interesting or compelling than the controversy surrounding it.

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