If Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen are going to be filmmakers, they really should write their own material. Their directorial debut and sleeper hit This Is the End sustained itself because of their clever weisenheimer writing satirizing self-involved Hollywood socialites.
With their highly anticipated and controversial second feature The Interview, the pair are responsible for the story along with Dan Sterling. However, this time, they’ve abandoned the screenwriting phase and let Sterling (a provocative mind behind South Park and The Sarah Silverman Program) take lone credit for the script. Wrong move on their part.
The Interview is a film that trips up due to miscommunication between the filmmakers and the screenwriter. On the one hand, Sterling has written a screenplay that wants to lampoon the impractical dictatorship of North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, and play against his intimidating presence. Taking influences from his former bosses Matt Stone and Trey Parker, he wants to goof around the same way Team America: World Police once farted around with marionettes and exaggerated violence.
On the other hand, you have the aforementioned directorial team of Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen who want to lampoon trashy talk shows, the egos that are attached to such programs, and the stereotype of the Ugly American. They have no interest in mocking North Korea, but they’ll take a swing at the low hanging fruit if the film calls for it.
The Interview manages to land a few decent laughs. Mostly those focusing in on shallow ambitions to please the lowest common denominator who is watching the crappy tabloid show Skylark Tonight. Rogen (who plays the show’s producer) and James Franco (who overplays the role of a vulgar, oblivious host) are psyched to have found out Kim Jong-un is a fan of their talk show, but they’re just as pumped to follow another story that describes how Matthew McConaughey looks like he’s having sex with a goat in an obscure picture.
The Interview also has a great presentation. The film looks slick and successfully disguises a vague Vancouver landscape for a destitute North Korea. The effects are blended nicely into action sequences, and the directors find amusing ways to earn laughs from Katy Perry’s latest hits. Randall Park (as Kim Jong-un) is also a surprising breakout as North Korea’s fearless leader.
But, it’s the disconnect between the filmmakers’ intentions and the political script that ultimately hamper The Interview. There’s life in the pop culture spoofs because Rogen and Goldberg know that area well. Sterling is confident when poking fun at other countries, but he can never win over the love from the other variables making up The Interview. Sterling also hits repetitive, crass targets when trying to milk laughs. But, that could also be the directors’ bad habits coming forth when it comes to tight editing.
As mentioned, The Interview was a controversial comedy. It troubled waters, sparked outrage and free speech protests, caused threats across the world targeting various movie theatres, and forced the studio to tear the film down only to reschedule it for a slapdash VOD release. Unintentional hype has been built around The Interview, so it’s an inevitable disappointment when the project doesn’t live up to its edgy past. It’s a forgettable film that gets by on some funny goofs.