Saturday, January 24, 2015

"The Interview"

 1.5 / 5 

North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has committed atrocities that defy description or explanation, but if he and his country did, indeed, somehow manipulate Sony Pictures to withdraw The Interview from theatrical release, it can be viewed as an unprecedented act of kindness and charity.

The Interview is an attempt to be Dr. Strangelove to an audience that has grown up with Beavis and Butthead, South Park and The Hangover, except that Beavis and Butthead, South Park and The Hangover are funny.  The Interview is not funny.  It is not even mildly amusing.  It does not know how to be a satire.  It is both puerile and sterile.  There is not one laugh in the movie, something I know because I saw the first 25 minutes of The Interview twice.  The first time, I fell asleep.  The second time, I got through to the very end, which often involved acts of conscious effort like sitting up, stretching, and shaking my head violently.  Watching The Interview requires dedication.

Whether the attempted political satire of The Interview was at the root of the massive cyber-attack on Sony Pictures that created an international diplomatic emergency, I don't know.  I certainly hope not.  I would like to think that even the most self-serving, aggressively secretive, cruelly violent dictator would have some taste.  To be offended by The Interview would require the emotional maturity of a sensitive third-grader who gets called names by the schoolyard bully.  I was such a third-grader, and if the bully were as pompous, ridiculous and mindless as The Interview, I have to believe I would have been able to shrug it off.

The Interview is a bad movie.  It has virtually no redeeming values except, perhaps, for some surprisingly sophisticated photography and some relatively endearing performances by (ironically enough) Randall Park as Kim Jong-un and Diana Bang as his propaganda minister.  I don't know how they managed to keep their senses of humor, especially when playing against the shrill, mugging James Franco, who has to have gained a lot of weight during the making of The Interview considering all the scenery he tries to chew.

To be effective as satire, Franco's character needed to be played straight, he needed to be more than a third-rate talk-show interviewer who gets the chance to interview Kim Jong-un -- and is recruited, along with his producer (Seth Rogen), to assassinate the dictator.  Franco plays it as a bumbling buffoon, and he's proves shockingly inept at comedy.  He is not, as satire requires, in on the joke.  He does not even know that there is a joke.

Rogen, who inexplicably allowed himself to take on-screen credit for co-writing and co-directing the film, fares a little bit better, but not much, as the duo's allegedly smarter half.  He has the right comic instincts, but it would take a far greater talent to find the humor in self-anal penetration with a military weapon and losing not one but two fingers to a raving North Korean TV producer.  Those scenes were not funny when they played on screen, and they do not strike me as funny now.  If they sound like scenes you would find amusing, then by all means, see The Interview, and best of luck to you.

The filmmakers find it endlessly amusing to find ways to work anal sex into scenes, and delight in making jokes about gays -- not to mention creating homo-erotic gags -- at every opportunity.  They think, I guess, that they are being hip and cool by making fun of homosexuality in some kind of ironic way.  Here again, they come across more as moronic schoolyard bullies than funny guys.

But The Interview never rises to the level of being intelligent or sophisticated enough to cause offense to anyone of any sexual orientation, political ideation or nationality.  To be offended in any way would be to give credibility to The Interview, and it is not a credible film.  It is also not an entertaining film, or a funny one.  While I don't mean to belittle or dismiss the crime that someone committed against Sony Pictures, the crime The Interview commits against its audience is, from a certain perspective, equally heinous.

Viewed Jan. 24, 2015 -- Netflix

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