Directors: Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen
Starring: Seth Rogen, James Franco
Sound the controversy klaxon! Wait, should that be the ballsy marketing campaign klaxon? The cynic in me thinks the latter. At the very least Sony have employed an extremely opportunistic marketing team to take advantage of the publicity surrounding their security hack and recent cyber-attack. (Who says cyber anything these days? It reminds me of chat rooms off of the 90’s and MSN messenger. ASL?) Anyway, after a pulled mainstream cinema release, Sony decided to do a limited Indy theatre release in conjunction with a more widespread on demand release through YouTube, Google Play and Amazon Prime. Personally I think this is the way it should always be because, well frankly I hate big multiplex cinemas. Again, I digress. Last night I checked out the long awaited follow up to This Is The End, The Interview.
James Franco plays Dave Skylark, a sort of comedy-driven talk show host (think Conan O’Brian) with delusions of being a serious mainstream media outlet. With tensions flaring about North Korea’s recent display of a missile capable of reaching the west coast of the United States, the leader of the secretive country, Kim Jong Un reveals that he is an avid fan of Skylark’s show Skylark Tonight and would like to do an interview from Pyongyang. Dave’s long-time producer Aaron Rappaport, played by Seth Rogan, tired of their talk show image is excited to secure an interview that could catapult the pair into the realm of 60 Minutes and serious journalism. Just when all seems settled, the pair are approached by the CIA who tell them that, since they will be given unprecedented access to the fanatical leader, they will be given the task of assassinating him.
Franco’s Dave Skylark is actually pulled off really well. You hate him. He’s a total toolbag with zero verbal filter but that’s the point. You’re supposed to get a sense of why Rappaport is getting so sick of his shit and wants to get serious. Unfortunately this is where the good performances end. Seth Rogen just plays Seth Rogen. Dave Rappaport is indestinguishable from Mac in Bad Neighbours, Kal in The 40 Year Old Virgin or even Seth Rogen in This Is The End. There is literally no difference. Even Lizzy Caplan, who I normally highly rate is disappointingly lack-lustre this time around. Other performances are so forgettable that I couldn’t tell you another character’s name (except Kim Jong Un, obviously, played by the most American Korean guy they could possibly find, Randall Park).
The plot premise isn’t completely terrible – I could imagine the CIA actually doing something like that to get a difficult-to-reach target out of the picture – but it gets totally railroaded from the outset by Rogen’s played out sense of humour. Here is a man who is going the way of Adam Sandler very, very quickly. James Franco is a bloody fantastic actor but he is doing himself no favours at all by appearing in all of his mate’s movies. I chuckled once or twice (the scene early on featuring Eminem was actually pretty daring and well executed) but on the whole, the movie scarcely raised a smile. The jokes are just so predictable it’s insulting.
Basically, I can tell why Sony had to go so crazy with the marketing strategy on this movie. It couldn’t have been cheap to make and, I whole-heartedly believe that given a mainstream cinema release, it would have died on its arse faster than a crazed dictator given a crafty trans-dermal dose of ricin.