Review for The Interview
It has been ages since I’ve had a film to review that I just didn’t want to watch. Back when the check discs used to turn up at random, via the Reviewer lucky dip, it was more of a thing, but now that I have more of an input in what I want to review, that hardly ever happens. This last Covid year, where I’ve turned more to my own purchases and collection to keep my hand in, it shouldn’t be an issue at all; after all, why would I buy something that I didn’t want to watch? But that is what happened when I walked into a pound store last year, and found The Interview on the shelf. There and then, I recalled that the film courted controversy with its subject matter, and that was provocative enough for me to pull out a pound coin or two. It was only when I got home, I recalled that it was a ‘modern Hollywood comedy’, probably the least funny genre in existence, and it had Seth Rogen and James Franco as the stars, two actors I have taken pains to avoid in the films that I watch. But I did buy the thing, and now it’s time to take my medicine. Still, a political satire can’t be that bad, can it?
None of this goes in any way to explaining why I picked up Pineapple Express at the same time. I feel an incipient wave of self-loathing coming on.
Skylark Tonight is a late night news show that scores great ratings for its host Dave Skylark and his producer Aaron Rapaport, but given that they tend to cover the more tabloid side of the news, the ratings don’t help when they are looked down upon by the ‘real’ news shows. They need a real news story, and that story appears when they learn that the Supreme Leader of the People’s Republic of North Korea is their biggest fan. He may be building nuclear weapons and threatening the West, but they can still score an exclusive interview. And when the CIA hear of this, they decide to use the pair to assassinate Kim Jong-Un.
The Interview gets a 2.40:1 widescreen 1080p transfer with DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround English and German, and DD 5.1 Turkish and English audio descriptive, with subtitles in these languages and Hindi. The image is as you would expect from a recent film, clear and sharp, and nigh on flawless on BD. The audio too is nice and immersive, keeping the dialogue clear with a decent degree of sound design. It’s a digitally shot film, but colour timed to give it a nice, filmic feel. A fair bit of CGI is used to create North Korea (I doubt that they filmed on location!), and it all looks great and realistic for the most part.
You get one disc in a BD Amaray case with an o-card slipcover. The disc boots to a static menu.
On the discs you’ll find the following extras.
Director’s Commentary with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg
Deleted, Extended, and Alternate Scenes x14 (25:21)
Gag Reel (7:03)
Line-O-Ramas x3 (9:32)
Directors of This Movie (6:41)
Spies Among Us (7:24)
Randall Park Audition Tape (5:14)
Getting Into Character (4:47)
Dating A Dictator (1:10)
Puppy Power (1:56)
Here Kitty Kitty (5:19)
Joking Around (1:54)
Naked & Afraid (13:47)
There is a snarkiness to the characters, a predilection for gross-out toilet humour in modern Hollywood comedies that I detest. There is a style, tone, and a pace to them that I find painfully predictable and utterly tedious. And all of this applies to The Interview. It is in many ways the epitome of all that I hate about the genre. And yet, watching The Interview, I laughed and more than once at that. Worse than that from my perspective, it also made me snort my beverage through my nose. With something like that, I have to admit that despite my disdain for all things Seth Rogen, and my indifference to the talents of James Franco, I enjoyed The Interview, and would begrudgingly call it a guilty pleasure.
It isn’t perfect though, and had more problems than the litany I opened with. The Interview has more than just the obvious target of the North Korean tinpot dictator that has inherited a nuclear arsenal. The film never goes beyond the casual racism of the ignorant (who learn the error of their ways by the end credits), and instead sees the North Korean people as much victims as you would expect. But their version of Kim Jong-Un is wisely crafted as sympathetic and even likeable, to sow as much ambiguity in the audience as with the main characters, before he reveals his true colours.
The film also scores a few points with the idea of US interventionism, with successive US administrations wielding diplomacy like a bludgeon, and reaching for the metaphorical revolvers at the drop of a hat. The assassination plan is just one more example. There are a few pokes at mainstream media, and of course at a public whose appetite for tabloid headlines and celebrity gossip seems to dull the intellect and atrophy any semblance of critical thought. Behind all the dick jokes and the toilet humour, The Interview has some smarts to its script.
In the end, The Interview fails because it tries to have its cake and eat it. Compelled by the CIA to do away with the North Korean leader, the protagonists realise that they have a far more effective weapon in their arsenal, that of journalism itself. Revealing the truth about Kim to his acolytes would be far more damaging and effective than making him a martyr. But the film also needs its bullets and its ‘splosions, which completely obliterates that surprisingly meaningful point that it just made.
I watched a film that I didn’t want to watch, and wound up laughing at a film that I didn’t want to enjoy. I don’t know what it says about me, but I wouldn’t dismiss The Interview out of hand. It gets a decent Blu-ray presentation, and it’s loaded with extras. But I can’t shake the niggling feeling that Hot Shots: Part Deux did it better. Comedies used to be comedies when I were a lad...