In spite of the innumerable blunders swirling inside and around the studio right now (at this point, we won’t even go there), Sony premiered “The Interview” in Los Angeles last night with guns blazing—only to be met by divisive critical reaction. But will mixed feelings about the film and ill will toward controversy-courting studio chiefs Amy Pascal and Scott Rudin hurt its box office chances? If nothing else, publicity is being unintentionally generated by the ballyhoo abound, including the rumors that North Korea perpetrated the Sony cyber-attack scandal, demanding that Sony pull this supposedly anti-North Korean comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco.
Also stirring up the pot is a photo, just taken at a Women in Entertainment Breakfast, of beleaguered Sony chief Amy Pascal and Angelina Jolie, who Rudin and Pascal, in leaked company emails, slandered amid talks of thwarted Steve Jobs and Cleopatra projects. Pascal’s apparent attempt at an embrace is met by Jolie’s steely, dead-eyed glaze. It probably means nothing, but in light of recent happenings, it’s kind of hilarious (seen right).
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 and Seth 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.
If you set up as provocative a premise as do the makers of The Interview, you ultimately have to deal with all its implications; let’s just say that what concludes the film is rote action, simplistic wish-fulfillment stuff that feels cheap and naive and more concerned with looking coolly kick-ass than with any real-world consequences. Even if one part of the film is sincere in wanting to highlight North Korea’s negatives (famine, ideological orthodoxy, cult of personality, militarism, nuclear brinkmanship, et al.), the larger part is devoted to very Western-style sexual grossness, deterministic outrageousness, self-satisfied obliviousness and contended immaturity.
With Rogen and Evan Goldberg (who previously made “This Is The End,” also with Rogen and Franco in the cast) directing, from a script by “South Park” and “Daily Show” alumnus Dan Sterling, the comedy is consistently broad. It mostly involves Franco and Rogen (whose association goes back to cult TV series “Freaks and Geeks”) riffing off each other, with Franco hamming it up and Rogen playing the straight man.
If production of “The Interview” was what truly inspired the hack that brought Hollywood to its knees, well, there’s a degree of beauty to that. Rogen and Franco are two of America’s finer bumbling man-children, and if this unessential but agreeable movie really triggered an international response, this is life reflecting art in a major way.
“The Interview” opens everywhere Christmas Day.