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Monday, December 29, 2014

The Interview 2014 * * 1/2 Stars

The InterviewDirectors: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg
Year: 2014
Rated R
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Lizzy Caplan

The celebrated bromance between actors Seth Rogen and James Franco parlays itself into a fifth movie with 2014's The Interview. And with this thing being screened in only about four to five theaters via the entire state of Illinois, I was lucky enough to be twenty minutes away from one of them in Chicagoland's own Buffalo Grove. So what did I witness? Well, from what was expected, The Interview had "so stupid, it's funny" written all over it (the vibe is decidedly more stupid than funny though). What I didn't expect was its gratuitous violence that came off as comical to the audience I sat with. A person's head explodes, someone's brain matter is splattered all over people's clothes, fingers are bitten off, and one of the main characters actually puts a missile up his buttocks (not violent but indeed gratuitous and just flat-out nasty). "Interview's" queasy bloodletting reminded me of some of the key sequences in Pulp Fiction. I researched the types of violent images that were featured in that Tarantino Academy Award winner and I found out that what was on screen was labeled hyper-real violence. The Interview towards its last half, had a lot of that going on.

Now I can see why this borderline black comedy caused a lot of controversy upon its initial release. After all, its main plot point is about the killing of a real life supreme leader in Kim Jong-un. So just on a whim, I checked IMDb to make sure this vehicle wasn't premiering in North Korea (anytime in the near future). Phew, what a relief. It wasn't.

Shot in Vancouver, British Columbia (masquerading as the most dangerous place on Earth), written by Dan Sterling (who's screenplay pretty much allows the actors to say whatever they want), and featuring the caricature of Kim Jong-un coming off as a real nice guy (and sort of humble too), The Interview begins by following the lives of talk show host Dave Skylark (James Franco) and his cautioned producer Aaron Rapoport (played by Seth Rogen who once again possesses a garbled way of delivering lines and a really goofy laugh). They are part of a TV show titled Skylark Tonight and it has successfully reached its 1000th episode. But wait, Rapoport is upset that the show is perceived as trashy and not really newsworthy. The solution: Set up a televised interview with Kim Jong-un, the supreme leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. This will give Skylark Tonight a chance to be in a more political circle as opposed to just having the host interview Uber-esque celebrities. Oh and it gets better. Skylark and Rapoport get contacted by the CIA and along with getting said interview in the doldrums of N. Korea, have to assassinate Jong-un by way of shaking his hand with a poisoned band aid. Talk about blurring the lines of proper etiquette.

Anyway, the bulk of The Interview has star Seth Rogen playing straight man to his best bud Franco. And James Franco's performance literally suggests that he's "cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs". His Dave Skylark is a successful wild man and Franco portrays him with the energy of a long-tailed baboon on an all night cocaine binge. There's also Lizzy Caplan who's cute as a button playing CIA agent Lacey. And of course there's Randall Park who really encapsulates the nastily-perceived Kim Jong-un. His character in "Interview" likes the music of Katy Perry, playing one on one basketball, and singing Karaoke. Park, with his blubber physique and deadpan hair cut, makes Jong Un come off as pretty likable to say the least. Finally, there's Rogen who along with serving as one of "Interview's" two directors (the other being Evan Goldberg), basically plays himself for the umpteenth time. In fact, he does it so often these days that I've gotten to the point where I've just resorted to labeling him a huskier, yet shorter version of Vince Vaughn. Granted, "Interview" isn't really a quote unquote, "Rogen stoner flick". But it's still Seth Rogen being Seth Rogen and that truly grates on you after a while.

Oh and did I forget to mention the cameos that accompany these star actors? Well there are a few of them and they share some pretty faux revelations (just think Neil Patrick Harris playing a straight guy in the Harold and Kumar movies and you'll know what I'm talking about). Eminem on Franco's character's show admits that he's gay, Rob Lowe on the same show reveals to the nation that he's almost totally bald, Joseph Gordon-Levitt goes on Skylark Tonight and lets everyone know that he has a fetish for cats, and this isn't a cameo but a news story in "Interview" reveals that Matthew McConaughey is caught having sex with a goat. That's an image better left out of sight and out of mind (totally).

In conclusion, everyone who worked on The Interview probably handled it as if it was one big joke. These proceedings don't take themselves seriously and neither should you. If you've seen something along the lines of Stripes or a raunchier, R-rated version of 1985's Spies Like Us, well this is what you're in for. "Interview" with its 112 minute running time, is sloppy, not well prepared, and doesn't ask a lot of intelligent questions (kind of like a real life bad interview). But it has a few laughs and a sumptuous look (Canada really appears to pass in scenery as North Korea, impressive) even though it's clearly a juvenile, comedic romp. My rating: A mixed 2 and a half stars. The Interview's Achilles' heel is that it's rushed and not silent enough (sadly, these are even more characteristics of a real life bad interview. Natch!).

Written by Jesse Burleson

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