The Interview

Year: 2014
Studio: Sony
Director: Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg
Producer: Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg
Writer: Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg/Dan Sterling
Cast: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Randall Park, Lizzy Caplan

Of all the films you could write a master thesis on concerning the machinations behind the scenes, who'd have thought a silly fratboy comedy like The Interview would be it?

By now you know the story about its dubious honour as the centre of one of 2014's highest profile cyberattacks, and everyone even remotely interested in the movie industry will remember its role in this melee much longer than they will the plot or any of the laughs in the film.

When the presenter-producer team of a vacuous talk show decide they want to get more serious material, they go after a very big fish. Seth Rogen is Aaron Rapaport, the same nebbish manchild he plays in every other movie, and James Franco is Dave Skylark, the unknowable host of Skylark tonight.

He's unknowable because it's perhaps the worst role in a movie of 2014. Franco delivers every line like he's still workshopping the character and has no idea how to play him. You're never sure if he's a secret genius or a profound idiot, a professional with a vision or a college dunce who never grew up or whether he considers Aaron a brother or is just an empty stardom whore who'll do anything (or anybody) to make it in TV.

But the guys get a big break when word gets through that North Korean president Kim Jong-Un (Randall Park) is a fanatical fan of the show. They realise an interview with the dictator will put them on the map, and no sooner do they hatch the idea than the North Korean government agrees.

But while they're preparing the trip, they receive a visit by a hot tamale CIA agent (Lizzy Caplan) who wants them to assassinate Kim while they have the chance. While Aaron tries to hold the already-failing mission together, Dave and Kim bond over playing basketball, driving a tank and listening to Katy Perry, the TV host feeling a change of heart.

The plot then falls into a slushing cauldron of ill-conceived ideas that feel like they came from the first script meeting but needed a lot more work even for a silly comedy.

In one example, Skylark's sudden about-face during the interview – putting Kim in the hot seat and asking unscripted questions about the country's poverty and tyranny – makes it seem like writer/director team of Rogen and Evan Goldberg knew they were making a movie about two bumbling fools, but felt they needed to shoehorn in a political statement supporting the general consensus about North Korea. Did they have an inkling of the fallout the movie would cause and wanted to make sure they came down on the right side of history?

The wobbly story and seesawing characterisations mean The Interview isn't even good silly, and the fuss it's kicked up internationally over something so flabby and ineffectual is the real joke. But it'll certainly earn a lot more money than it ever would have because of the kind of publicity and recognition studios can only dream of – are we sure Sony didn't orchestrate the whole thing?

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