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David Poland

By David Poland

Review-ish: The Interview


It’s real simple. If you find James Franco playing a relentlessly positive buffoon right out of a Preston Sturges movie funny, you will love The Interview. If you find it boring and trite that Franco and Kim Jong-Un bond over a Katy Perry song and their hopelessly demanding fathers, you will hate The Interview.

There are other examples, but they just add more points of reference.

The Interview is not trying to be Kubrick. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg and credited screenwriter Dan Sterling are not that tough, not that intellectual. The Interview is a movie about the stupidity of celebrity media, the bad behavior of an angry child being given a lot of power, how people judge themselves and others professionally, male bonding, and a lot of Abbott & Costello silliness. Lots of dick, vagina, and bodily excretion references. “Honeypotting” and “honeydicking” are prominently featured in the film.

In the tradition of these filmmakers, nothing is sacred. To clarify that further, nothing is important enough to either take seriously or to even worry about. This is not a film about politics. It is funnier to name and portray Kim Jong-Il rather than “Made-Up Asian Dictator.” It’s like a stand-up comedy routine, talking about what his dad must have been like, why he gets so angry, how he does whatever he wants while his people suffer, about his bad hair. A sequence when Kim and Dave just go out on a joy ride and want to mess shit up is the comedy response to every Fast & Furious movie. But just as jokes about Obama are rarely about the details of his policy, neither is The Interview, as regards North Korea. And the filmmakers don’t take themselves seriously either. It’s a movie in which the directors, when Lizzy Caplan’s CIA agent comes to see the two lead guys, shows the characters’ eyes slipping down to check out her cleavage instead of looking at her face over and over again.

I laughed from the beginning to the end. Around 30 minutes in, I considered whether I was having the experience of the last week and this, the first screening in LA at 12:30 at night, or if I was just enjoying the movie. I was enjoying the movie. There was a moment in the credits, when the traditional disclaimer about characters not being real rolled by, that got a big laugh and applause. Not so much from me. I wasn’t watching through those eyes. I was just watching a silly, broad, very funny comedy about a couple of close male friends who represented high and low, going on a profoundly stupid adventure.

Not every gag hit for me. But there were clever twists that I didn’t anticipate. It’s a bit Stripes, a bit Abbott & Costello, a bit Sarah Silverman, a bit Midnight Run, a bit Transformers, a lot of Sturges, no Capra… it is Goldberg & Rogen. And if you listen to critics who just don’t like them, you are a fool. That doesn’t mean you won’t like the movie. But read reviews closely and note whether the movie is being reviewed or the new story and the expectation that the critic brought to the theater. The real surprise here is how far afield this movie goes… really wild stuff… and then brings it right back to an emotional, recognizable place.

But you decide for yourself If the idea of a dictator in a distant land shitting themselves might make you laugh, go to the movie for the movie, not the statement. If not, God Bless America and the First Amendment, but this one ain’t for you. It was terrific fun for me.

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14 Responses to “Review-ish: The Interview”

  1. Killing a dictator is not political?

  2. doug r says:

    Real countries and dictators are more fun. Made up countries bug me. As soon as they go to “Corto Maltese” on Arrow, I change the channel. I think Seth Rogen’s got a pretty good take in your sidebar.

  3. PcChongor says:

    I don’t see many commenting about it, but Brandon Trost’s cinematography was quite astounding for such a big studio comedy. It’s nice to see Panavision lenses finally making a comeback in non-JJ Abrams fare.

  4. Amblinman says:

    I thought the movie was just okay. Randall Park’s Kim is the highlight. Franco is trying too hard, Rogen is Rogen (for me, that means he was good. I like Rogen). This is one of those films where a lot of it probably read funnier on the page than it plays out. “Skylark and Kim Jung Un take a joyride in a tank!” I think the last 30 minutes are pretty terrific.

    Too many people are gonna fall over themselves to declare this the best thing ever or the worst.

  5. Breedlove says:

    DP really raved about This Is The End and I didn’t like that one too much. Hope I have a better time with this one.

  6. Bulldog68 says:

    Haven’t seen this either but DP’s rave about This is The End was spot on in my view.

  7. js partisan says:

    It’s the best movie Rogen has ever made. He finally finds the sweet spot for his comedy, and all of this nonsense happens. Luckily, people are seeing it, and that’s a good thing.

  8. LYT says:

    doug r – you’re okay with “Star City” but not Corto Maltese? Both are from the comics.

  9. Joe Leydon says:

    I laughed a lot when I watched this on Google Play. I’m not saying it is as inspired as Duck Soup — but back in 1933, the critics were mixed on that one, too. The New York Times complained: “[T]his production is, for the most part, extremely noisy without being nearly as mirthful as their other films.” Wonder if some contemporary pans of The Interview will seem that misguided decades from now.

  10. doug r says:

    Well, I drove to 7-11 twice because those Google play cards are funky when it comes to removing the scratch strip without scratching off a couple of letter/numbers. Watched it on my wife’s tablet, enjoyed it and wished I could see it on a bigger screen. It’s not really suited for 3000 screens, but it is an awesome arthouse flic.

  11. Geoff says:

    I watched it last night through Google/YouTube and it was better than I thought…..pretty fun with just the right mix of darkness thrown in. I can see how Franco’s mugging could irritate the hell out of a lot of folks, but it really worked for me – fit the character perfectly, I mean he’s supposed to be a cable news gossip/blowhard….he plays it about perfectly as you would expect.

    This could have easily been a $150 million domestic blockbuster with a full wide release but the way it’s going now, it’ll be lucky to make one third of that.

  12. Sam says:

    Better than Neighbors, but not as funny as This Is the End, which is one of the two funniest movies of the century so far (the other being Talladega Nights). I saw it at a screening with 15 other gay men and for the rest of the evening we kept referencing it. Not suprisingly, honeydicked went over quite well with us.

    On yahoo this morning the headline noted that some critics found it “sohopmoric”. As David said in so many words “no shit”. I think the ribbing (indcitment?) of the celebrity crazed infotainment culture is pretty sharp – and I found myself giggling thinking of it today.

  13. Christian says:

    THE INTERVIEW is what happens when you’re surrounded by Hollywood syncophants who think dick jokes are blazingly unique and subversive.

  14. Bobby says:

    I would describe this event as cinematic water boarding.

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“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

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