‘I’ ON CULTURE
The new film The Interview is the worst film that you should absolutely see. By this time, most people know about how someone (our government blames the North Koreans) hacked Sony and got the company initially to yank it from a scheduled opening on Christmas Day. Then, word came out Christmas Eve that it would be available to stream online. Then, a select group of theaters did host a Christmas debut. I saw it on streaming video.
Frankly, it is adolescent and generally silly. At the same time, it is vitally important as an example of why we should always support freedom of speech.
Two TV journalists, useless producer Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen) and ditzy celebrity talk-show host Dave Skylark (James Franco) actually request and get an exclusive interview with Kim Jong-un (Randall Park) in North Korea. The CIA, ignoring the fact the two men are idiots, hire them to assassinate the leader, which, of course, they manage to screw up. Instead, they do something even more damaging to the Pyongyang regime. In an interview televised not only internationally but even in North Korea, they expose Kim as an insecure and murderous fraud, a cosmic joke. He is nothing like he is pretending to be; neither the leader of happy people nor a brilliant, dangerous opponent. He is a clown.
The two reporters wind up running for their lives, along with their official “watchdog” Sook (Diana Bang), in a tank given to Kim’s grandfather, founding dictator Kim Il-Sung, by Stalin. Skylark is such a boob that he tells the North Korean that in the U.S., we pronounce the name “Stallone.”
There are plenty of cheap jokes, some at the expense of the North Koreans, others typical locker room-style jests common in these movies. One of my favorites is having the North Koreans deny their leader has a rectum because they claim he doesn’t need one. Of course, the language is coarser than that. Most of the jokes are old, and only some are funny. If you are a teenage boy, you will probably laugh more than anyone else.
The cast is mostly wasted. Rogen and Franco are sort of funny but do nothing with their characters. Bang is attractive and comes across as pleasant. The best of the performers is Park as target Kim Jong-un. He comes across as dumb but somehow as sweetly nutty as Skylark. The two even have a bit of a bromance discussing their fondness for Katy Perry. Lizzy Caplan as the lead CIA agent also plays it over the top.
The reason the movie is important is that it stands for so many things that never get heard. We live in a world where the free press too often is too timid to present the truth. When the chief political correspondent for American outlet Politico, Mike Allen, has to apologize to former President Bill Clinton for asking tough questions in an interview, we begin to recognize how hard it is for anyone to get the truth. And this is in the United States, where Allen would not be arrested for being contentious. We need to be tough on leaders. They get a lot of perks and get to make decisions that affect all of us. Deciding that we cannot offer criticism legitimately removes a lot of our freedom. We have already lost it on some college campuses that now offer very small “free speech” areas where those who hold positions that are unpopular may speak. Hey, you millionaire college presidents, we should be living in a free speech country!
It is bad enough that the FBI named North Korea as being behind the extortion involved in this film and that many do not believe this; however, a group of computer hackers claims that it played a major role, working to take down the production company in the interest of freedom. And somehow they are doing it for the largest national prison on the planet. What a world!
Now, I repeat, this is a poor movie. The lead characters are essentially sad sacks (although having watched a couple of reality shows, they seem not that different), and it is really hard to care about them. I would laugh at the idea that the CIA would even use people like that if it weren’t for the fact that our top “intelligence agency” already has done just that.
But you should see the movie if only to stand up against extortion in the name of a “freedom” that imprisons everyone. If our own institutions fall down on the job, we might just need some of that backbone ourselves.