Over the last few weeks Sony has had to play a game of “will they, won’t they?” with the release of James Franco and Seth Rogen’s latest comedy offering, The Interview. Originally, they stood up to the pressure of a hacktivist group based out of North Korea who was holding the company’s internal information ransom in order to prevent the release of the movie. Then, the theaters that were going to be screening the film started to fold, and with no one willing to screen the damn thing, Sony eventually cancelled it… That was not the end of the story though, as the movie went from being a late-year comedy piece to a statement of freedom of speech with everyone, from people who would never have watched the movie original, straight on up to the President of the United States calling for (at least) a digital release of the movie as a strong show of freedom.
Beneath all of that though, there was a movie; believe it or not.
Somewhere in the midst of the massive political statement that even showing the movie became, we lost sight of the fact that a bunch of people had dumped a lot of time and work into a silly little comedy piece about two celebrity interviewers who get a chance to speak with Kim Jong Un and are subsequently recruited by the US military to snuff out one of the world’s deadliest threats. So, while I have already discussed the implications of what the hack, Sony’s reaction, and a look forward to what that can mean for other groups, let’s try to talk for a moment about the movie itself.
Thanks to the amount of geo-political drama that surrounded its release, The Interview was under a microscope when it finally launched in limited theater release (and globally via digital streaming services). Critics have absolutely SLAMMED The Interview for being a terrible film, and there has been no shortage of comparisons to 2004’s commentary of North Korea by Matt Stone and Trey Parker entitled Team America: World Police.
I, like a number of my friends, purchased a copy of the movie when it was released (December 24th) on Google/YouTube to help support the idea of digital release of new movies. Unlike a lot of people who were voting for digital distribution with their wallets, however, I was also genuinely interested in the film.
For the last few years, I’ve begun a tradition of heading out to see and enjoying a new-release film with a empty movie theater on Christmas Day. This year was going to be the year of The Interview, until everything else got in the way.
The Interview is nowhere near as terrible as the reviews I have read (from notable publications) have led their readership to believe, and I think that a large part of that is due to the fact that they feel the need to show that the film was not worth all the controversy and address that statement via swinging hard into critical analysis of the film as a political commentary rather than a fun bit of comedy.
For my money, The Interview is a perfectly serviceable film, which delivered several ‘laugh out loud’ moments. I will fully admit that it is nowhere near as clever as Team America, but where I will disagree with the rest of the reviews that I have been reading is that, this is a bad thing.
It’s fine to have a bit of mindless fun. The plot to kill Kim Jong Un serves as little more than a goofy strategy in which to have our main characters (performed by James Franco and Seth Rogen respectively) thrown into a situation which they are obviously ill-equipped for.
These guys are traditionally known for their stoner-humour films that revolve around dick, fart, and weed jokes. Each of which was absolutely fine for the critics to enjoy before… but now somehow comes up short because of the subject matter.
The Interview is no worse than anything else the two have done (Pineapple Express, This is the End) and personally I think it (at minimum) stacks up nicely beside the other two. The greatest benefit of this film being that the stoner-comedy thing seems to have mostly past, the usage of drugs for comical effect in this movie is drastically less as it instead focuses on the idea of the two just being journalistic sell-outs, thrown in the middle of an assassination attempt.
The Interview is definitely not something I’m going to nominate for my film of the year, nor would I assume it even wins in the category of comedy alone this year, but the amount of hate that its gotten from those who have chosen a life of professionally providing opinions on whether people should or should not put money towards a film is simply unearned. Movies are about escapism and enjoyment, if James Franco and Seth Rogen can make you laugh at something like Eminem admitting he’s gay on a talk show… then maybe it does not matter that North Korea did not like that (spoilers) Kim Jong Un’s head exploded in the movies original ending for the film.
Maybe it’s just enough to be a funny film, regardless of what ‘statement’ it makes; that’s all I’m trying to say.