I chuckled for freedom Friday afternoon in the multiplex in Auburn, N.Y. Grimaced a little, too. Groaned a time or two.
Long live the American way.
The Interview, with Seth Rogen so solidly behind the green curtain — co-writer with Dan Sterling, co-director with Evan Goldberg, co-star with James Franco and Randall Park — was going to be what it was going to be, of course, coarse bromance strokes that dance with broad political statements long in the can before this serious collision with the world news stage.
Funny man Rogen never in his wildest dreams could have imagined President Obama chiding SONY pictures for not releasing this film about a goofy talk show host Dave Skylark and his suddenly sort-of serious producer Aaron Rapoport’s trip to North Korea, tasked by the CIA to take out dictator Kim Jong-un. Then some hackers got into SONY’s system, 9/11-level threats were issued, major movie chains pulled out, SONY caved, Obama opined, minor movie chains saw dollar signs, SONY relented and released it, and Americans everywhere do what we do.
Hey, The Interview earned $2.84 million at 331 screens and $15 million in online rentals and purchases its first week of release, according to boxofficemojo.com and npr.com.
Cinematically, though, an instant classic, it is not.
I did appreciate the start of the movie, the sub-titled humor of the little North Korean girl singing in front of her huddled countrymen a song of strong anti-American sentiment. The contradiction of cuteness and bile was stunning and tickling, and, yes, the North Korean government probably wouldn’t like this too much.
From there, we see what makes Franco’s anchor Skylark and producer Rapoport the team they are in an interview with Eminem — and the fleshy text for the rest of the plot. Bug-eyed and hammy going over the rapper’s hate text about old folks in a song, the somehow and somewhat likeable cable show host inadvertently gets the celebrity to adamantly come out of the closet on the air. The producer bugs out behind the board, feeds questions in the ear, sends crawlers onto the screen and celebrates their bite out of the rotten fame apple.
But at a surprise party to celebrate their 1000th episode together, the producer meets a college buddy who’s working on 60 Minutes and thereafter spills that case of the guilts into Gumby-man Skylark’s ear. Host sees a news account that the North Korean dictator watches their show. Outlandish spy plot is hatched, rehatched, hatched again, sat upon — well not exactly sat — and worked over good and hard.
With Rogen so firmly creating, there’s plenty of hoo-ha and hopeful ho-ho’s about who’s getting sex and not getting sex and plotting to get sex and how everybody else but Skylark and Rapoport is using their desires to have sex to maneuver them.
All of it is very low-brow.
The spy part is pretty simple and easy to understand for the movie-goer, though just a hair too complicated for cable TV guys like this.
When push comes to shove, there are several scenes that are too up-close and personally and graphically violent. Ugh.
After 90 minutes (out of 112) of playing good dictator/bad dictator, what side this movie comes down on in the politics becomes obvious and out front and left for everybody to judge for themselves.
It was the movie-makers’ right to poke this particular bear, and our right to decide if we want to see it. I’m glad I saw it. Many people will watch it on home screens for a long time to come.
Mark Bialczak is a veteran journalist who has lived in the Syracuse area since 1983. In early 2013, he was set free to write about whatever he wants. Click here to read Mark’s BLOG.