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Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg wade through waves of controversy to put out a film ultimately not as memorable as the journey itself



By now everybody and their in-laws knows something about the recent controversy surrounding popular actor/director Seth Rogen and now-frequent directorial collaborator Evan Goldberg’s making of The Interview. When the plot of a film involves the assassination of one of the world’s most controversial and unstable leaders, not everybody is going to be on board with it, especially the film’s ultimate target. North Korea itself spouted some nasty threats to the US if The Interview were to be released, which caused many of the higher ups involved (Sony, theater chain owners, etc) to grow uneasy, ultimately pulling the release, scheduled for Christmas Day, altogether. After about three days of no release plans in sight, Sony granted the film a release after all, but through different online-centered mediums. Very soon after, a theatrical release was reconsidered. Whether or not you believe this might have all been a deeply clever marketing tool by Sony to get the film noticed is up to you.

Either way, The Interview is finally here, and it’s…..empty. The film stars Seth Rogen as Aaron Rapaport, a celebrity-news live TV director, which is hosted by James Franco as Dave Skylark called “Skylark Tonight”. When Rapaport decides he wans to escape the trashy celebrity news trope and head into something more serious, he and Skylark get the chance to interview supreme leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, a huge fan of the show. The CIA catches wind of this, approaching the two to intercept their plan in the hopes of getting the two to “take him out” when they visit. They accept, and the rest doesn’t need to be spoiled.

I don’t think it’s too out there to say that we, as moviegoers, have come to expect a certain brand of humor from a Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg-directed film, or even just a film with Seth Rogen (alongside James Franco) at the forefront itself. Not quite toilet humor, but raunchy, dialogue-driven humor that doesn’t exist in the universe of other comedy directors. Watch This is the End, Superbad, or Pineapple Express, and you’ll start to understand their brand of comedy. It’s maybe two or three notches above toilet humor. I even dare to say smart toilet humor, but I think I’m getting a bit out there (please don’t write me off for even considering it). The point is, it’s recognizable, but The Interview lacks some of this “Rogen magic.”

Regardless of your opinion of Seth Rogen/James Franco comedies, one thing is certain: they’re photographed beautifully. This is the End is gorgeous, as is Neighbors, and now The Interview. Cinematographer Brandon Trost is to thank for that. The way he frames, lights, and moves the camera gives a slight edge over almost every comedy being made today. There are a couple shots, one near the end in particular, that incorporate a slowed down sequence that is absolutely breathtaking, oddly so, but works very well and fits in nicely with the tone of the film. Overall, The Interview is very visually pleasing without being overtly distracting.



The typical “bromantic” chemistry between Seth Rogen and James Franco is in full effect here. If you’ve seen any of the aforementioned comedies, you’re aware the two are fantastic together on screen. Rogen is his usual, charming self and James Franco continues to play the most outrageous and out-there characters and have an absolute blast doing so. My one personal issue is that Skylark’s character is an absolute idiot, and that gets tiring after a while. The idea of the bumbling-but-charismatic idiot getting into trouble is nothing new to the world of film, so it hurts to see such talented comedy writers resorting to it to provide content. It’s not so much that it doesn’t work, but it’s not what I personally expect. That’s the biggest problem I have with the film: the emptiness.

When you look at the other Rogen/Goldberg-directed comedy, This is the End, you’ll notice something The Interview does not have: an ensemble comedic cast. This is the End had not only Rogen and Franco, but also the likes of Jonah Hill, Jay Barushel, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, and virtually every other comedic actor all in one film. When that happens, and the actors mostly improvise, the comedy writes itself. With The Interview, the focus is almost entirely on Rogen and Franco. The “Rogen magic” thrives on multiple comedic actors playing off of each other in order to get the full effect. While Rogen and Franco are certainly fantastic together here, the jokes, largely improvised or not, feel forced or fall flat altogether. Some larger setpieces give way to better jokes, but overall, that magic isn’t there. After This is the End, it just doesn’t feel the same. Maybe the plot material just doesn’t give them enough comedic space as they thought.

The Interview is fine. If you’re into comedies starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, you’ll most likely end up liking this film, but you’ll no-doubt notice something off about it. It’s unfortunate something that endured so much trouble to get to where it is isn’t as good as we hoped. But that’s not the film’s fault. That unfortunate act of accidental marketing got everybody so fueled up to see it that it’s nearly impossible for it to live up to the hype. It almost seems like a clever shell of a film that doesn’t feel true to form for the people who made it. The laughs aren’t as abundant and the charm feels slightly held back. It’s a damn shame, but one thing that can’t be denied is the topical “now”-ness of the whole thing. It’s certainly something that will be talked about for a while, but probably not as long as we expect.



The Good: Rogen and Franco share the same charming chemistry we’re used to, and the film is gorgeously shot by DP Brandon Trost:

The “Meh”: Ultimately a shell of what could have been a timeless modern classic with some tweaking and rewrites.

Overall: A film that is funny, but ultimately less memorable than the controversial journey it took to get here

About The Author

Steve Carley

Steve Carley is a Michigan-born lover and resident of the film industry in Atlanta, Georgia. When he's not infiltrating the nearest Waffle House or giving up on the most recent movie-adapted book he can be seen lounging in his apartment complex's pool and regretting the way he wrote his Film Takeout bio.