Film Review: The Interview

Written by Matthew Kelly

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The Interview Plot Summary:

Dave Skylark (James Franco) and Aaron Rapaport (Seth Rogen) have scored the interview of a lifetime with the reclusive leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un (Randall Park). When the CIA enlists their help in assassinating the maniacal dictator, Dave and Aaron have to go into the center of one of the deadliest countries on Earth and carry out a deadly mission with the fate of their friendship and the world at stake.

This is a funny movie. Let’s start there. Did you enjoy Neighbors or This is the End? Then you will probably also enjoy The Interview. If you are going into the theater (or your living room) expecting The Great Dictator for the millennial generation, you are probably going to be disappointed. However, if you go in expecting to have a really good time laughing at a couple of buddies try to assassinate the strangest political figure of the 21st century, then you are in for a treat.

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James Franco plays Dave Skylark who has to be THE most awkward talk show host ever. Rogen is his producer Aaron Rapaport, who does an excellent job of keeping Dave’s goofball persona in check. In the vein of similar buddy comedies, specifically Vince Vaughn/Owen Wilson films, Dave and Aaron are the most likeable pair of best friends you have ever seen. They’re so much fun to watch, no matter what they are doing. Having them haphazardly go through spy training is great, but listening them talk around a kitchen table is just as entertaining and that leads to The Interview’s biggest strength. The Interview never stops being funny. Rogen and Franco are constantly bouncing off of each other. The dynamic that they have built up over decades of working together is moving with so much momentum that I am convinced you could give these two pretty much any script and they could turn it into something fun and interesting.

While Rogen and Franco are the big stars, the real weight of The Interview is on Randall Park’s portrayal of King Jong-un. The character is all over the place — in a good way. He is charming and psychotic and frequently emotionally vulnerable and kinda sympathetic. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not planning on defecting or anything but there are a couple of occasions where I felt myself getting tricked into wanting everything to work out for this sad little underdog. That feeling doesn’t last, but the fact that it exists at all really drives home what an excellent job Park did to create such an interesting villain.

A lot of the credit deservedly goes to the writing team of Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and former South Park writer Dan Sterling. The plot moves really quickly and it is chock full of genuinely funny moments. The Interview hits all of the Rogen/Goldberg notes. There is clearly a ton of improvisation. There is frequent partying and entertaining drug use. You even also get some excellent Hollywood satire. Much like in This is the End, a couple of real celebrities play extreme versions of themselves in segments from Skylark’s interview show and those interviews are some of the strongest moments of the film.

The Interview also took its political subject matter as seriously as it needed to. While King Jong-un was a complicated character, it was clear he was a villain and, although it takes them a while, Dave and Aaron do eventually get to the real North Korean issues. The hunger and the concentration camps surface in a meaningful way. Without spoiling too much, while Team America is clearly a much smarter political satire, The Interview does the better job of understanding the real North Korea.

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As directors, Rogen and Goldberg are getting really good at capturing different kinds of action. Scenes with tanks and helicopters are one thing, but maintain that level of excitement in a television studio is another. Rogen and Goldberg are able to balance the energy of a more subtle power struggle while taking you into the control room for something completely different without losing any of the best bits of either scenes. The movie is nearly two hours long, but the pacing is so well done that the last forty minutes of The Interview feel like fifteen. There are no breaks for unnecessary emotional moments and because the action focuses completely on the main characters who are all in one room, you never get a chance to check your phone and you don’t notice that the movie is nearly over until you see the beginning of a certain scene that made its way onto the internet.

All in all, I really did enjoy The Interview. Without all of the hype and controversy, The Interview is the latest in a long line of hilarious Rogen/Goldberg comedies. The next one on the radar is an animated film the duo wrote called Sausage Party. Hopefully I get to see that in a theater but then again it’s hard to beat getting to see a movie like this for $5.99 in your pajamas.

Rating: 8/10

The Interview is available for digital rental or purchase on Google Play, YouTube, Xbox and seetheinterview.com.

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Matthew Nando Kelly is a staff writer for Pop-Break. Aside from film reviews, he writes about television, music, and video games. Matthew also has a podcast called Mad Bracket Status where he discusses pop culture related brackets with fellow Pop-Break writer DJ Chapman. He loves U2, cats, and the New Orleans Saints. He can also occasionally be found writing lists on Topless Robot and his twitter handle is @NationofNando
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Matthew Nando Kelly is the cool and tough Managing Editor of Pop Break who was allowed to write his own bio. Besides weekly Flash recaps, he has a podcast called Mad Bracket Status where he makes pop culture brackets with fellow writer DJ Chapman.