In the action-comedy The Interview, Dave Skylark (James Franco) and his producer Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen) run the popular celebrity tabloid TV show "Skylark Tonight." When they discover that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is a fan of the show, they land an interview with him in an attempt to legitimize themselves as journalists. As Dave and Aaron prepare to travel to Pyongyang, their plans change when the CIA recruits them, perhaps the two least-qualified men imaginable, to assassinate Kim Jong-un.
At risk of life and limb…or at least a strongly worded letter from the North Korean Consulate, it has fallen to me to provide the Blu-ray review of Directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's 'The Interview', the movie that spawned nothing short of an international crisis this past Christmas when it was threatened with violence by the North Korean government, yanked from theaters, and then given a digital (and limited theater) release on Christmas Day. By that point, it was perhaps the most talked about movie in the entire world, leaving many disappointed when they discovered it was little more than a raunchy comedy. Of course, fans of Rogen and Goldberg already knew exactly what they were going to get.
'The Interview' is by no means a great movie, but it's a smart and fun one – and I actually wound up enjoying this a lot more than the last Rogen/Goldberg/James Franco team-up in This Is The End. That prior film was entertaining for about 30 minutes before it fell apart. 'The Interview', on the other hand, is pretty good up until its final 30 minutes when it too starts to come apart at the seams. Up until then, though, it's a pretty nifty political parody – with a lot of 'dick jokes' to be sure (hey, this is Rogen and Franco!).
James Franco stars as Dave Skylark, the host of a nightly entertainment interview show, of which Aaron Rapaport (Rogen) is the producer. Their show becomes even more popular when Skylark gets a major celebrity (I won't reveal whom) to confess that they're gay on camera. When the two discover that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (played by Randall Park) is a huge fan of the program, Skylark gets Rapaport to try and set up an interview with the 'glorious leader'. No one is more surprised than them when Jong-un agrees to it…although they'll need to fly to North Korea for the interview. When the CIA (led by an operative played by Lizzy Caplan) learns of the interview, the agency recruits Skylark and Rapaport for an undercover mission: they want the pair to assassinate Jong-un during their visit.
The smartest thing that 'The Interview' does is in allowing Randall Park to portray Kim Jong-un the way he portrays him…at least at the beginning. Instead of a ruthless dictator, Jung-un is played as a misunderstood leader who really just does the things that he does because he's seeking the approval of his now-deceased father. It's a brilliant way to approach the character, and the scenes involving Kim and Skylark in the middle portion of the movie are easily the best that 'The Interview' has to offer.
Of course, there's no way even a comedy like 'The Interview' is going to get away with portraying the dictatorial leader of North Korean as a nice guy (if you thought the fuss over this movie was bad, what do you think it would have been like if it showed Jong-un as a sympathetic character?), so it's revealed that he's actually tricking Skylark and Rapaport into thinking he's decent, just so he can come off as such during their impending interview. When Skylark finds out and winds up turning the tables on him, it leads to the final section of the movie, where 'The Interview' turns from a fun comedy into more of a haphazard action flick, with no expense seemingly spared in the over-the-top combat (Rogan's character even loses a body part in the melee, but don't worry – it's not the one you might suspect!). It's really a shame the writers/directors felt the need to go in this direction, as all the frenzy in the final 30 minutes or so of the movie almost (but not quite) manages to sink the entire film.
Although I didn't care for that last portion of the movie, I actually found myself smiling during a lot of 'The Interview', and do think it's worth a look, just as long as one doesn't set their expectations too high going in. This isn't a movie that was worth all the fuss and hype (granted, much of it created by those outside the studio) it got, but it's certainly not worthy of easy dismissal, either. There's more good here than bad, and the movie should appeal to fans who have enjoyed the prior releases featuring this team of actors.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'The Interview' arrives on Blu-ray in a standard Sony keepcase (the type with the flap you need to pull up on the side), which houses the 50GB disc, along with an insert for a UltraViolet copy of the movie. The Blu-ray contains no front-loaded trailers; however, it does contain a short front-loaded message from Directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg telling you what a patriot you are for buying this film ("capitalist" would probably be better, but I digress). The main menu contains the same image as the box cover, with menu selections running across the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-ray is Region A locked.
I've reviewed a number of Sony Blu-ray releases over the years, and I usually consider them to be one of the more reliable studios when it comes to great transfers. However, this release of 'The Interview' has some serious issues when it comes to black levels. For whatever reason, Sony has given this movie quite an oversaturated transfer in terms of color, making almost every scene look much darker than it should and giving many scenes so much black crush, you literally can't see any details because the image is so dark. Also of note is the fact that the UV copy provided here (as well as the digital version I watched back at Christmastime) do not suffer from the crushed blacks this transfer does, so it's easy enough to make a comparison. This may be one of the few Blu-ray releases to date where the accompanying digital version is actually a more satisfying view than the Blu-ray disc.
It's a shame about the crushed blacks, because otherwise this could have been a really nice transfer. Aside from a few mild instances of banding, the image is very sharp and what details can be made out look very nice indeed. 'The Interview' is also one of the more visually appealing movies to come from Rogen/Goldberg collaborations, which makes the crush issue here even more disappointing. The blacks don't make this movie unwatchable by any means (casual viewers might not even pick up on the darkness issues, think that this is how the movie was intended to look), but it does tend to ruin what otherwise could have been a very nice Blu-ray release from Sony.
Thankfully, the English 51. DTS-HD Master audio track offered here doesn’t suffer from issues the way the video transfer does. In fact, this is a pretty outstanding bit of audio, with a real sense of immersiveness that includes some fun bits of directionality throughout the movie, as well as some booming low-end LFE use that will show off one's home audio equipment. As noted in my review above, the final part of 'The Interview' really unloads on the action, and this is where the track shines – managing to provide some entertaining dynamics in the sound, all while keeping it properly balanced with the spoken word – something fewer and fewer studios seem to know how to do on their home video releases these days (as those who are frequent readers of my reviews are aware).
In addition to the English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, the Blu-ray also includes a French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, a Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital track, and an English Descriptive Audio Service track. Not only does this release offer subtitles in English, English SDH, Spanish, and French, but it actually offers English subtitles for the Commentary Track on the disc – which makes one wonder why more studios don't do this on releases.
'The Interview' may not be worthy of all the controversy it sparked over the past several months, but it's certainly a well-made and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny comedy that holds up well when compared to the other collaborations from the Rogen/Goldberg team. The biggest problem with this release is the transfer, which suffers from horrible black levels – although the digital copy included does not. However, the quality commentary found here as well as a nice selection of bonus materials still makes this release fall into the recommended category.