I don’t believe I’ve ever written or read more about a movie before viewing a single frame than I have “The Interview.”
As I wrote in my Dec. 28, 2014, column, “Re-watching ‘Team America,’” Sony Pictures decided to cancel the film’s release after cyberterrorists calling themselves the “Guardians of Peace” hacked the company’s computer systems. The film is a comedy about celebrity journalist Dave Skylark (James Franco) and his producer, Dave Rapoport (Seth Rogen), who are recruited by the CIA to assassinate North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. After an outcry, Sony relented.
“Sony will release ‘The Interview’ in about 300 theaters on Christmas Day, reversing an earlier decision not to show the picture on that date amid threats of violence,” reported Bloomberg’s Lucas Shaw Dec. 24, 2014.
Since then, the FBI has blamed North Korea for the attack (while many cybersecurity experts believe an inside job at Sony more likely), North Korea has suffered a series of major Internet outages, President Obama has announced new sanctions against the communist state and North Korea has proposed high-level diplomatic talks with South Korea.
“‘Obama always goes reckless in words and deeds like a monkey in a tropical forest,’ an unnamed spokesman for [The National Defense Commission, the North’s ruling body, chaired by Kim Jong-un] said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency, using a term seemingly designed to cause racial offense that North Korea has resorted to previously,” reported Reuters’ Jack Kim Dec. 28, 2014.
Meanwhile, protesters are planning their own release of the film in North Korea.
“Human rights activists are planning to airlift DVDs of the … comedy into the country via hydrogen balloons,” reported Paul Bond of The Hollywood Reporter Dec. 16, 2014.
I finally had a chance to watch it. It’s amazing a movie this silly could cause an international incident. This is not some legendary political satire like “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.”
Still, this is one of the most prescient films of the last few years. (Anyone who was surprised by Rogen’s entrance into the world of politics obviously missed his Feb. 26, 2014, appearance before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services to discuss Alzheimer’s.)
The villain is named Kim Jong-un, not unlike Rogen and writing partner Evan Goldberg’s previous film “This Is The End” where all the celebrities starred as exaggerated versions of themselves. One aspect no one seems to be mentioning is how funny Franco is in it. He stole the movie. My one complaint is they made him slightly too gullible. Unlike “Team America: World Police,” which used a puppet representation of Kim Jong-un’s father, Kim Jong-il, as the villain, “The Interview” depicts the supreme leader as much more of a three-dimensional character. Randall Park does a great, understated job of playing him.
As I wrote in my columns of March 13, 2013, “Mr. Rodman goes to Pyongyang,” and March 20, 2013, “Rodman visit puzzles Koreans,” former professional basketball star Dennis Rodman became possibly the first American to ever meet Kim Jong-un when he traveled to North Korea with Vice Media. The movie makes several references to this documentary, “The Hermit Kingdom,” including a fake grocery store set up for the benefit of the visiting Americans. (Although in real life the food wasn’t fake, you just couldn’t pay for it.) There is even a scene about halfway through where Skylark and Kim Jong-un play basketball.
I personally could have done with less graphic violence and Katy Perry music, but overall, I found “The Interview” to be worthwhile. I have been a fan of both Franco and Rogen since 11th grade when I discovered Judd Apatow’s coming-of-age television period piece, “Freaks and Geeks.” While I liked “The Interview,” I’m way more interested to see what the Rogen/Goldberg/Franco team does next. It would be fascinating if their next film was about the aftermath of the release of this one.