“The Interview” Review

 

I can’t help but think of the 2003 Chris Rock movie Head of State. Chris Rock plays a Washington DC alderman who gets talked into running for President and … he wins. Thereby becoming the first black President of the United States. I saw it probably around 2004 and enjoyed it. Then I watched it again in 2010. It played … rather differently.

We don’t just watch a film in a vacuum, as with any piece of art, we view it through the lens of our time and place. A film can play one way when you see it the first time, it can play another way, often very differently, later. I know, for example, that if I were to watch Ghost Dad tonight, I would have a different reaction than if I had watched it a year ago.

So I can’t really tell about The Interview. Because of the high drama surrounding it, the Sony Pictures hacking, the threats of terrorism, Sony pulling the picture, the public reaction to Sony pulling the picture, and now it’s subsequent release to the world in a few theaters, and how I saw it: on video on demand, literally 41 minutes after it was released — it’s hard to know. The thing is, I didn’t find the movie that funny. I don’t know if it’s the movie just wasn’t funny, or if the real life drama surrounding the movie sucked the funny out of it. (Although, as I write this, in the other room my wife is watching the film, and I can hear her laughing every so often).

I knew the plot of the movie going in: James Franco plays Dave, a soft news entertainment journalist. Seth Rogen plays Aaron, his producer, who is tired of covering nonsense news, and wants to do journalism with meaning. It turns out that Kim Jong-un is a big fan of Dave’s show, and they use this to land an interview with him. The CIA finds out and they recruit them to kill Kim Jong-un. Hilarity ensues (in theory).

The problem with the film (other than it not being that funny) is that it’s not sure what it wants to be. It’s not The 40 Year Old Virgin and it’s not This Is The End, but it tries to use the similar language, over-the-top profanity, over-the-top sexual vulgarity, but at the same time there’s a seriousness and a tension. At the same time, it touches on the famines and repression of the North Korean state. But, you can’t make erection jokes and talk about concentration camps in the same movie.

Except that you can. The Book of Mormon, the Trey Parker and Matt Stone Broadway musical threads those needles. It touches on AIDS, and famine, and female genital mutilation, and can still make filthy jokes — and it works. (Their 2004 film Team America: World Police takes on Kim Jong Il, and they are merciless about it). I think the difference is that Parker and Stone set out to do a work where they confront heavy stuff head on, as opposed to The Interview where it feels like they came up with the zany concept first, then someone told them about how repressive and horrible North Korea actually is, and so they worked that in on the margins.

Considering the subject matter and the controversy, should Sony have green-lit this film in the first place? I’ll admit that film that depicts the assassination of a living foreign head of state borders on bad taste, but North Korea is a special situation. They always seem to be fair game, and that’s a business decision Sony should make. Personally, I think that borderline bad taste be damned, the whole point of art is to be provocative.

Is this a piece of art worth going to war over? That’s not a question that should be asked. Ever. The particular piece of art doesn’t matter. The principle behind it, that people should be able to express themselves free of threats of violence, is what matters. That in this case, the threats of violence came indirectly from a foreign government. The entire purpose of government is to protect the rights of its citizens. If those citizens are under threat of violence, the government should protect their rights. Period. Why the hell else have a government? In this particular situation, should we go to the mattresses with North Korea over a James Franco movie? Well, no, but there are ways to protect the rights of citizens other than war.

Should you see the film? Well, certainly if you do (and I guess this goes without saying), don’t watch it with your kids. You may enjoy the movie, you may not. Maybe when the tension surrounding it is a fading memory, it’ll get more laughs. But this movie is stupid. If you enjoyed Knocked Up or This Is The End, sure, go see this movie. More important than whether you see it is that this movie is that it’s out there, it’s been released, threats of violence couldn’t stop it. As far as this movie goes, that cork can never go back in the bottle.

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  1. user_1065645 Contributor
    user_1065645
    @DaveSussman

    I don’t think anyone expected this to be all that great to begin with.

    What I’m hearing from you is tacit disappointment that THIS movie was the catalyst of the geopolitical events and ultimate Sony/US embarrassment.

    Without seeing it yet, I would agree.

    • #1
  2. Mallard Inactive
    Mallard
    @Mallard

    Charles Krauthammer said it was good news the movie was released. The bad news is that we would all have to watch it. Based on your reaction to the movie, CK was right!!

    • #2
  3. Blue Yeti Admin
    Blue Yeti
    @BlueYeti

    I’d just like to thank Fred for taking the time to watch and review this for us on Christmas Eve. He is a patriot and a gentleman.

    • #3
  4. Howellis Inactive
    Howellis
    @ManWiththeAxe

    Fred Cole: The principle behind it, that people should be able to express themselves free of threats of violence, is what matters. That in this case, the threats of violence came indirectly from a foreign government. The entire purpose of government is to protect the rights of its citizens. If those citizens are under threat of violence, the government should protect their rights. Period. Why the hell else have a government?

    Very well said. I couldn’t agree more.

    • #4
  5. user_428379 Thatcher
    user_428379
    @AlSparks

    Fred Cole:Should you see the film? Well, certainly if you do (and I guess this goes without saying), don’t watch it with your kids. You may enjoy the movie, you may not. Maybe when the tension surrounding it is a fading memory, it’ll get more laughs. But this movie is stupid. If you enjoyed Knocked Up or This Is The End, sure, go see this movie. More important than whether you see it is that this movie is that it’s out there, it’s been released, threats of violence couldn’t stop it. As far as this movie goes, that cork can never go back in the bottle.

    I may watch it, but I’m not paying additional money for it.  I’ve read that Netflix is trying to make a deal, and I might take a look in that case, since it won’t cost me any additional $$.

    When the movie was first promoted, there was nothing about it that piqued my interest.

    • #5
  6. user_358258 Member
    user_358258
    @RandyWebster

    Fred Cole:the whole point of art is to be provocative.

    What?

    • #6
  7. Skarv Inactive
    Skarv
    @Skarv

    Just finished the movie.

    If it wasn’t for the geopolitical kerfuffle this was not a lot to bother about.

    Bad country, bad movie, unrealistic  idea about how we would take them out,

    However, I think we should all pay our 5.99 to Sony to stick it to the norks.

    BTW to Fred Cole, I think the idea the the purpose of art is to be provocative is questionable. Once upon a time it used to be to produce beauty. Now it may be harder to say what it is but pure provocation is not very impressive. It really depends on who you are provoking. Some are more provoking worthy than others.

    • #7
  8. x Inactive
    x
    @CatoRand

    Man With the Axe:

    Fred Cole: The principle behind it, that people should be able to express themselves free of threats of violence, is what matters. That in this case, the threats of violence came indirectly from a foreign government. The entire purpose of government is to protect the rights of its citizens. If those citizens are under threat of violence, the government should protect their rights. Period. Why the hell else have a government?

    Very well said. I couldn’t agree more.

    Ditto

    • #8
  9. x Inactive
    x
    @CatoRand

    I am glad to learn it is on On Demand.  I will pay for it, to thank Sony for growing a spine.  Whether I will actually watch all of it remains to be seen.  Your review, Fred, suggests the odds of that may be low.  As someone else suggested — this wouldn’t have been on my list of things to do absent the effort to suppress it.

    • #9
  10. Albert Arthur Coolidge
    Albert Arthur
    @AlbertArthur

    What the [expletive]. Why is everyone such a God [expletive] [expletive]ing snob? This was a funny movie for anyone that doesn’t have a stick up their [expletive].

    It’s “borderline bad taste” to kill Kim Jong-Un in a movie? Whatever, Fred. Since you love the Castros and the Muslim Brotherhood, your reaction shouldn’t be a surprise.

    No one has to love this movie, obviously. But I thought it was funny and it did convey important facts: North Korea is a horrible dictatorship that enslaves 24 million people, condemning most of them to starvation and deprivation while the Kim and their elite groupies live a life of luxury.

    Fred is right: if you liked Pineapple Express and This Is the End, then you’ll probably like The Interview. I would just add that if you didn’t like Pineapple Express or This Is the End, perhaps you should go see a proctologist.

    • #10
  11. Fake John Galt Coolidge
    Fake John Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    It does matter that Sony has aired this film. Freedom has already lost. No film company will make fun of North Korea again. Most likely no artist will. There is no profit in it, no upside, only down. Self censorship will rule from now on and films will stick to safe topics of ridicule such as Republicans, Christians, Nazis, white men, etc. Free speech lost this round.

    • #11
  12. Richard O'Shea Coolidge
    Richard O'Shea
    @RichardOShea

    I feel like I have a patriotic duty to pay $5.99 and watch a movie I wouldn’t otherwise bother with.

    If the Norks had ignored the whole thing, it would already have disappeared.

    • #12
  13. user_615140 Inactive
    user_615140
    @StephenHall

    The boy dictator has ensured the success of this movie. Could Sony have been behind the whole thing? It’s an evil corporation, right?

    • #13
  14. Songwriter Inactive
    Songwriter
    @user_19450

    Skarv:Just finished the movie.

    If it wasn’t for the geopolitical kerfuffle this was not a lot to bother about.

    Bad country, bad movie, unrealistic idea about how we would take them out,

    However, I think we should all pay our 5.99 to Sony to stick it to the norks.

    BTW to Fred Cole, I think the idea the the purpose of art is to be provocative is questionable. Once upon a time it used to be to produce beauty. Now it may be harder to say what it is but pure provocation is not very impressive. It really depends on who you are provoking. Some are more provoking worthy than others.

    I think it was Leonard Bernstein who said that art should make “cosmos from chaos.” I always liked that idea: Art should help us understand the world better.  Sometimes that might mean provocation (to think a new way).  Other times it could be to show us the beauty in a thing. And sometimes, perhaps, it should just make us laugh, and thus see the absurdity in a situation.

    Thanks, Fred, for going where most of us would rather not go – to another Rogan/Franco frat party/movie.  Your review tells me the movie is pretty much what I expected it to be.

    • #14
  15. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Be

    David Sussman: What I’m hearing from you is tacit disappointment that THIS movie was the catalyst of the geopolitical events and ultimate Sony/US embarrassment.

    Best comment I heard on the radio: “Other generations had movies like Last Tango In Paris or The Last Temptation of Christ. We get The Interview.”

    • #15
  16. Skarv Inactive
    Skarv
    @Skarv

    Songwriter

    I think it was Leonard Bernstein who said that art should make “cosmos from chaos.” I always liked that idea: Art should help us understand the world better.  Sometimes that might mean provocation (to think a new way).  Other times it could be to show us the beauty in a thing. And sometimes, perhaps, it should just make us laugh, and thus see the absurdity in a situation.

    Agree.

    • #16
  17. otherdeanplace@yahoo.com Member
    otherdeanplace@yahoo.com
    @EustaceCScrubb

    Merry Christmas, Happy First Amendment Day and Happy Anti-Hacker/Terrorist/Dictator Artistic Choice Day to All!

    • #17
  18. Grimaud Inactive
    Grimaud
    @Grimaud

    That there wasn’t  an immediate ground swell of support for Sony and Freedom of Speech, in support of their “right to release”, but instead,  debate over safety issues and fear of reprisal from the Norks, gives this battle to them. Hopefully this skirmish has prepared us for the next round and our response will be swift and brutal!

    We can’t let the “pot bellied dog eater’s” son have any influence in our society what-so-ever. To allow any is a piece of incremental slide toward his brand of totalitarianism and misery for all.

    • #18
  19. otherdeanplace@yahoo.com Member
    otherdeanplace@yahoo.com
    @EustaceCScrubb

    Misthiocracy

    “Best comment I heard on the radio: “Other generations had movies like Last Tango In Paris or The Last Temptation of Christ. We get The Interview.”

    Don’t forget that other censorship battles have been fought the likes of  The Outlaw, The Moon is Blue, I Am Curious Yellow and Deep Throat. I’d rather watch The Interview  over any of those films.

    • #19
  20. EstoniaKat Inactive
    EstoniaKat
    @ScottAbel

    I just saw it. Adolescent, gross, pushing the boundary way past the boundary of good taste – it had it all in spades.

    But some of you, namely Fred, sound sort of surprised that you went to see a Seth Rogen movie … and it was Seth Rogen movie. I find that funny in itself. That’s like going to see a J.J. Abrams film and then complaining about the lens flare.

    There was enough there that kept me smiling through most of it. And I think Claudia Rossett nailed the geo-political takeaways.

    In a Hollywood that once turned the bad guys in the movie version of Tom Clancy’s book The Sum of All Fears from Muslim terrorists to New Nazis (wait, what?) in a nuclear attack on the United States, I thought several times during The Interview – I’m amazed that this ever got greenlighted.

    the interview

    KIM JONG UN: (Looking at a tank) This was a gift to my father from Stalin.

    DAVE SKYLARK: (snorts). Uh, in America, we pronounce that STALLONE.

    • #20
  21. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Well, I have just finished watching “The Interview” and I thought I would throw my two cents in on the topic.

    My first gut reaction is that I enjoyed the movie, and I am quite certain that I would have enjoyed it even without the geopolitical fracas that this movie seemingly instigated. I enjoy stupid comedies and this movie certainly fits that category. The jokes are all basically sex and poop jokes with some mild violence thrown in to spice things up and give it a flair of action. So if you find that humor to tedious and excessively sophomoric this is not a move for you. If on the other hand such jokes can make you laugh once in a while by all means go and see it you will certainly get a few laughs out of it, I certainly did.

    Frankly considering the anticipation created around this movie, I found it rather tame. Maybe they cut back, but I think if they would have had some more crazy violence and spent more time actually making fun of Kim and North Korea it would have been even better. So is it worth spending a few bucks to see it? If you have to debate it, then the answer is no. Wait for it to come to Netflix or if you enjoy irony just torrent it off the internet.

    • #21
  22. robertm7575@gmail.com Inactive
    robertm7575@gmail.com
    @RobertMcReynolds

    One of the major contributors to Ricochet already mentioned the suspected method for which the advertisement of this movie popped up.  Like she said, I hadn’t heard of this movie until the hack-flap started.  Now we have an all new method of releasing a movie to the general public:  releasing it to streaming mediums so people can watch it immediately on whatever device they desire.  The more and more we step back from the hack-flap, the more and more I can’t help but put the tin-foil hat on about how this movie gained its buzz and all of the new methods of viewing it that were introduced to the general public.  From behind the black curtain and with a tip of my fedora, Bravo Sony, Bravo!!

    • #22
  23. Fake John Galt Coolidge
    Fake John Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    I was not planning to see this movie but a surprise Christmas present changed that. I have been watching the trailers at the theaters for months now and had written the movie off as a waste of time and money.
    I was wrong. While it is not the best comedy I have seen, it was much better than I expected. It had many more laughs than the traditional Seth Rogen film. I viewed it with 20, 40, 60 and 70 year olds and the humor seemed to play across the age groups, which is hard to do.
    So purchase or rent a copy to make a political point with the added benefit that if you allow yourself, you will get a laugh or two since it is a decent comedy in its own right.

    • #23
  24. x Inactive
    x
    @CatoRand

    Albert Arthur:What the [expletive]. Why is everyone such a God [expletive] [expletive]ing snob? This was a funny movie for anyone that doesn’t have a stick up their [expletive].

    It’s “borderline bad taste” to kill Kim Jong-Un in a movie? Whatever, Fred. Since you love the Castros and the Muslim Brotherhood, your reaction shouldn’t be a surprise.

    No one has to love this movie, obviously. But I thought it was funny and it did convey important facts: North Korea is a horrible dictatorship that enslaves 24 million people, condemning most of them to starvation and deprivation while the Kim and their elite groupies live a life of luxury.

    Fred is right: if you liked Pineapple Express and This Is the End, then you’ll probably like The Interview. I would just add that if you didn’t like Pineapple Express or This Is the End, perhaps you should go see a proctologist.

    For what it’s worth, I emphatically do not think it’s in bad taste to kill Kim Jong-Un in a movie.  Nor do I think it would be in bad taste to do so in real life.  I hope, and assume, that given the opportunity our government would take the fat little monster out.

    • #24
  25. Albert Arthur Coolidge
    Albert Arthur
    @AlbertArthur

    Robert McReynolds: Now we have an all new method of releasing a movie to the general public: releasing it to streaming mediums so people can watch it immediately on whatever device they desire. … The more and more we step back from the hack-flap, the more and more I can’t help but put the tin-foil hat on about how this movie gained its buzz and all of the new methods of viewing it that were introduced to the general public.

    These things are not new, and The Interview is far from the first movie to be released in such a way…

    • #25
  26. Owen Findy Member
    Owen Findy
    @OwenFindy

    Randy Webster:

    Fred Cole:the whole point of art is to be provocative.

    What?

    I’ve always gone with Ayn Rand’s definition of art as “a selective re-creation of reality”, and that the artist is trying to show us some part of  reality, or his view of reality.  Provocation might be the point of that sometimes, but I doubt all the time.

    • #26
  27. user_358258 Member
    user_358258
    @RandyWebster

    Owen Findy:

    Randy Webster:

    Fred Cole:the whole point of art is to be provocative.

    What?

    I’ve always gone with Ayn Rand’s definition of art as “a selective re-creation of reality”, and that the artist is trying to show us some part of reality, or his view of reality. Provocation might be the point of that sometimes, but I doubt all the time.

    That was more of a “Do you actually believe that?” what than a “I don’t understand what you’re saying” what.

    • #27
  28. Blue Yeti Admin
    Blue Yeti
    @BlueYeti

    Robert McReynolds:One of the major contributors to Ricochet already mentioned the suspected method for which the advertisement of this movie popped up. Like she said, I hadn’t heard of this movie until the hack-flap started. Now we have an all new method of releasing a movie to the general public: releasing it to streaming mediums so people can watch it immediately on whatever device they desire. The more and more we step back from the hack-flap, the more and more I can’t help but put the tin-foil hat on about how this movie gained its buzz and all of the new methods of viewing it that were introduced to the general public. From behind the black curtain and with a tip of my fedora, Bravo Sony, Bravo!!

    No chance. No idea who hacked Sony, but I can guarantee you that it was not part of some marketing plan.

    The movie grossed about $1mm on 300 screens yesterday and is predicted to make about $3mm for the 5 day holiday weekend. That’s average at best. We don’t know how much it made from streaming but suffice to say it was far less that it would have made had it been released to the 3,000 or so screens it was originally to have played on. That plan also indicates the confidence Sony had in the movie before  the hack — you don’t pay for a wide release if you don’t think you have the goods.

    • #28
  29. user_358258 Member
    user_358258
    @RandyWebster

    Not to mention you could reveal the movie without revealing the private emails.  I can’t see Sony making some of that stuff public.

    • #29
  30. otherdeanplace@yahoo.com Member
    otherdeanplace@yahoo.com
    @EustaceCScrubb

    One thing the Sony Hacks surely showed was that the idiocracy that is the Sony management team couldn’t have pulled off such a huge publicity stunt to promote a movie

    • #30
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