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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
In a move that likely surprised no one, the controversial comedy film, The Interview, was released on Netflix and other streaming devices. Over the weekend, my girlfriend and I came across it and, with nothing better to do, wanted to see what the big hub-bub was.
Shh….Don’t tell North Korea.
Overall, I enjoyed the movie and laughed a lot. It is incredibly dumb, but I don’t mean that in a bad way. Many great comedies are full of dumb humor such as Dumb and Dumber, Dodgeball, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, and, arguably, the earlier works of Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell. As opposed to something painfully dumb such as 2001’s Out Cold or Freddy Got Fingered, those aforementioned film’s use their “dumb comedy” in intelligent ways be it through clever writing, deeper characterizations, or better delivery. The Interview falls within that group, and that is why it largely worked for me.
Considering that it is a vehicle for Seth Rogan and James Franco, The Interview had its fair share of toilet humor, but not as much as one would expect. In many respects, it has more in common with classic screwball comedies absurd characters with nutty back-and-forth exchanges. On that level, it really succeeds.
In particular, James Franco is absolutely hilarious as a self-absorbed, over-the-top, infotainment journalist. I think the reason why Franco works as “Dave Skylar” is that his is totally committed to the role. There is no mugging or winking at the camera. He is the character. He also delivers enough pathos to where Skylar isn’t a complete caricature, and that’s what sells it.
As it has been noted by many other people (and I am going to contribute to the chorus), Randall Park as North Korean Kim Jong-un is utterly fantastic. He shows a vast array of convincing emotional states from friendly guy-next-door to emotionally wounded to batshit crazy (sometimes all within the same scene). As my girlfriend and I discussed later on, probably one of the reasons North Korea was so angry over this film was that their leader was a bit too accurately depicted on screen.
If I had any sort of major complaint about The Interview, it would probably be with the excessive violence that dominates the third act. I am not opposed to violence (and in a film about the assassination of a world leader, violence is to be expected), but I think this movie could have survived without the graphic representation of biting fingers off. Violence can work in a comedy, but it needs to fit within the tone the movie has set for it to work. Here, it was tonally off, and felt out of place.
I enjoyed The Interview, but like many movies, it isn’t a film that I will feel the need to revisit. I laughed and got what I wanted out of it. It does some really great things that hinge on the performances of Franco and Park. It is worth watching even if you temper your expectations on what kind of movie you are getting yourself into: a big, dumb, funny comedy.