The Interview *** (out of five)

the-interview-is-the-interview-controversy-a-publicity-stuntEvan Goldberg and Seth Rogen’s The Interview has a fantastic comic premise. A celebrity tabloid tv interviewer, Dave Skylark (James Franco) is highly admired by North Korean ruler Kim Jong-un (Randall Park). When Skylark and his producer Aaron Rapaport  (Rogen) are invited to North Korea to interview Kim, they are corralled by the CIA into assassinating him.

It’s a spectacular hook, and, given all the hoopla and shenanigans surrounding the release of this film, it’s a pleasure to report that the rest of the film bears up to the excellent conceit. There are a lot of very funny moments, lines, scenes and set-pieces in The Interview, as well as a relatively sophisticated plot structure – and depth of characterisation – for “this kind of movie” – being the kind of movie that stars Seth Rogen.

It’s not quite as funny as Rogen and Franco’s last collaboration, This Is The End, but it shares that movie’s relentless embrace of throwaway lines, snatches of clever dialogue that are only ever meant to be caught by half the audience, but which come in such abundance that there are plenty for all. These “quick-bite” laughs are the stuff that allow comedies to survive second viewings, and The Interview is definitely be one of those films – like Zoolander or Dodgeball – that you’ll happily watch, and enjoy, again, and perhaps again.

Unlike a sloppy example of this type of thing, such as The Internship, which had no real characters,  Skylark, Rapaport and Kim are strongly drawn, and the relationship between Kim and Skylark – the joke being that they get on great, and Skylark has second feelings about killing Kim – is meaningful and intriguing. At its heart, the film is much more about friendship and loyalty than it is about killing a foreign leader or even making fun of one. Rogen plays straight man (while still getting plenty of laugh lines) while Franco’s gleefully and strangely fey Skylark and Park’s boyish Kim get to romp and roll, Franco perhaps a little too much at times, but always with loyalty to the intent of the material – which is not to insult an entire populace, but which does make very strong points about why that populace is not being served properly by its leadership. The film is political – very much so; as satire it is very broad; as broad comedy it is surprisingly, and pleasingly, smart.

One thing I must note: the prevalence of “gay jokes” is disappointing, especially in an otherwise clever film. Surely Rogen and his ilk can put those out to pasture where they belong.

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