Friday, January 30, 2015

The Interview

Thanks to the running dog capitalists at Netflix, I finally caught The Interview. Boiled down to an elevator pitch, here's the gag --

Out of a clear blue sky, Kim Jong-un (Randall Park) grants an interview to Dave Skylark (James Franco), the fatuous host of a sleazy celebrity talk show on American TV. Said host is set to fly to North Korea with his brainy producer, Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen). The CIA taps these media bottomfeeders to assassinate the baby-faced dictator. They arrive in the crappy Hermit Kingdom. Screw-ups and comedy ensue.

Apart from poking a thumb in the eye of a psychopathic dictator armed with nukes, not bad. It's a great comic premise for a Ben Stiller satire along the liners of Zoolander or Tropic Thunder. Trouble is, Ben Stiller didn't write or direct it. Directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg and screenwriter Dan Sterling did. They waste the promise of the premise.

The movie is 2/3 set up 1/3 pay off. It takes about an hour before the lads wind up in North Korea. The stateside stuff is heavy with exposition and character points. Not that funny. Lots of Hangover-style ass, schlong and caca jokes, too. Not that funny. The North Korea segment is funny enough, if you can overlook the perverse violations to the Goddess of Logic and tedious bromance crap.

Rogen puts in the best comic performance as the laid-back producer. Franco just seems wrong. His character's too damn likable for a back-stabbing talk show host. Morton Downey Jr. would be more like it. Too old for the demographic, I know. Park doesn't quite sell me on the boy dictator's basic insecurity. Diana Bang (as a sexy DPRK propaganda officer who falls for Rapoport) and Lizy Caplan (as the CIA puppet master running the show) are funny enough, though their comic talents seem wasted.

Oddly, the movie is moving in spite of itself. North Korea is a real place, and evidently, a really shitty place. You wind up rooting for the lads to do their mission. Like it or not you get involved and cheer when the bad guy dies. Sadly, it's just a movie. The bad guy is still alive -- and he's pissed. I am too. Hell, they stirred up all this trouble -- for this?

If your movie is going to cause an international incident, it might as well be good.