After weeks of prevaricating, terrorist threats, conspiracy theories and presidential interventions, Sony finally released The Interview on YouTube yesterday. Although we opted not to review because whether the movie was good or bad (it's bad) is almost entirely besides the point, it seems like everyone else on the internet has.
Here is the groupthink conclusion, in meta-review form:
There is no way North Korea hacks Sony over this film—if anything, Pyongyang would be calling up whatever Sony exec didn't just get fired for gross misconduct over email and offering to finance the sequel instead of feeding its people.
So yes, I watched this movie. But there is not a lot to say about it: It's a comedy and it's OK. I laughed a few times, and picked up on all the half-ass foreshadowing that excuses itself for moviemaking. If I had seen it in a theater, I would not have walked out, but I might have taken a nap.
The Interview has the earmarks of a corporate concoction gone wildly awry. Jokes don't land, scene shifts jerk us through the threadbare plot and only Bang, as the mouthpiece-turned-freedom-fighter seems to have had any fun. When the sage said it's not the high ground democracy needs to protect, it's the low-hanging fruit, The Interview is what he had in mind.
It's an awfully stupid movie, and by stupid, I don't mean good-stupid, the kind that makes you laugh so hard you forget to be embarrassed. The Interview is so drenched in flop sweat that anyone seeing it for reasons of patriotism should be saluted.
In the end, The Interview hits the sweet spot for raunchy fun and spiky lampooning because Franco and Rogen are effing hilarious and fearless about swinging for the fences. It's the American way. Could Rogen and Goldberg have saved us all the fuss by changing Kim's name to a fictional dictator dedicated to the destruction of human rights? Maybe. But that instinct to try anything for shits and giggles and sticking it to dictatorial assholes is worth fighting for. Screw Kim if he can't take a joke.
The Interview is rarely funny or pointed, and if you've seen shocking comedies in the past decade, there isn't that much to be shocked by. Which makes me ask, what were Rogen and Goldberg going for?
We can call this movie a symbol of freedom and an example of free speech – but the film is the film, and unless you are the biggest fan of Rogen and Franco's or you truly want to support this film, I can't imagine you won't be underwhelmed and disappointed, especially after the controversy this film has created. It might be everyone's right to see this movie, but that doesn't mean you have to see this only occasionally funny, often juvenile buddy comedy which isn't nearly as provocative as the film's premise promises.
North Korea can rest easy: America comes off looking at least as bad as the DPRK in "The Interview," an alleged satire that's about as funny as a communist food shortage, and just as protracted. For all its pre-release hullabaloo — including two big thumbs down from Sony hackers the Guardians of Peace — this half-baked burlesque about a couple of cable-news bottom-feeders tasked with assassinating Korean dictator Kim Jong-un won't bring global diplomacy to its knees, but should feel like a kind of terror attack to any audience with a limited tolerance for anal penetration jokes. Extreme devotees of stars James Franco andSeth Rogen (who also co-directed with Evan Goldberg) may give this Christmas offering a pass, but all others be advised: An evening of cinematic waterboarding awaits.
In its parade of ribald gags and infantile preoccupation with body parts, not to mention a climactic decapitation, water-balloon style, The Interview displays all the mindless excesses that repressive regimes condemn in Hollywood movies. Which may be Rogen and Goldberg's point — "See, here's what they hate about us. And you're gonna love it."
Maybe you will love The Interview — if you can ever see the movie — as much as some people hate or fear it. But if you're hoping for any cogent political satire here, then the joke's on you.
Randall Park makes the young dictator funny too, in spurts, by playing him as self-doubting and unctuous: "I'm just me and I do my best," Kim tells Dave after giving him a cute dog for a present. But Mr. Franco mugs shamelessly to make sure we understand that he's being funny, which he's not, and the script as a whole turns a satirical—or at least farcical—premise into sour buffoonery. In the real world, a debate has been raging over what does and doesn't constitute torture. In the movie world, there's no debate; watching "The Interview" is torture from almost start to finish.
Though its unlikely to stand out as one of the shrewdest political satires of its time, The Interview is a clever, unrestrained - and frankly most importantly - sidesplitting parody that pokes fun at both a vapid media and one of the world's most dangerous dictators. Rogen and Goldberg tackle a risky subject head-on and do not hold back one iota of their brash, barefaced, vulgar humor - which is just as it should be. When all is said and done, this comedy satisfies the only true demand that ought to be made of it – it makes its audience laugh.
There are a number of solid laughs to be found in this farce, which of course involves bumbling celebrity interviewer Dave Skylark (James Franco) and his producer (Seth Rogen) being recruited by the CIA to assassinate Kim Jong-un. But the film often resembles one of John Stewart's less successful "important person" interviews, as the filmmakers don't trust the story it is telling to let ample time go by without lowest-common-denominator humor interrupting the storytelling.
Much of the blame lies with James Franco's air-headed would-be newsman, as he plays the character as a completely over-the-top caricature in an otherwise "real world" environment. This film doesn't intend to be a "look at this cartoon character in the real world" character piece like Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, but rather Franco makes the choice to go as broadly as possible at the expense of the inherent reality of the situation. When Kim Jong-un (played in a superb comedic turn by Randall Park) is only the second-most outlandish character in your otherwise straight-faced comedy, that's a problem.