Making headlines this week is the magnanimous decision from Sony Pictures to pull Seth Rogen and James Franco‘s The Interview from theatrical release.
The hackers that lifted the curtain to Sony’s internal workings threatened violent actions against theaters showing The Interview. Despite The Department of Homeland Security citing no credible information to indicate an actual threat, Sony had allowed theaters to make the decision to show the film or not. With theater chains defecting en masse, Sony Pictures Entertainment has pulled the planned Christmas release of The Interview.
Did Sony not see White House Down? – “We Do Not Negotiate With Terrorists!”. This reaction has sent a powerful message to terrorists. Sad day. Here’s why…
I was fortunate to see a special advanced screening of The Interview with Seth Rogen a couple weeks ago.
Randall Park’s depiction of Kim Jong-un was lighthearted parody. He was actually really great. A stark contrast to the offensive and emasculating Kim Jong-il depicted in Team America: World Police, which received very little attention from the press (or anyone outside of die-hard Parker/Stone fans for that matter).
The cowardice of the theaters, as well as Sony Pictures themselves, is disturbing to me. This is the definition of “letting the terrorists win”. Don’t draw a cartoon of Muhammed, you will be killed. Don’t parody the leader of North Korea, you will be killed. What next? How many concessions are we going to make? How much freedom are we willing to give up to appease these extremists?
We need comedy. Comedy makes these tough issues accessible and understood by the average person. Comedy allows us to see the silver linings. Comedy gives us the tools we need to heal our broken spirits.
Maybe you’re pissed about this, like I am, or maybe you think it’s a good idea to pull the film because you are afraid. I am afraid, too. I am afraid that the extremist of the world will see that THEIR PLAN WORKED. Now we have set the precedent. If something offends you, no matter how harmless the parody, threaten to blow shit up, and we’ll just bend right over.
If you think Sony Pictures should released The Interview in theaters, and not just on VOD which they are proposing, then sign this Change.Org Petition.
Like any total masochist, I decided to read the comments. One commenter, Orcus, said the following:
“So why not just give us a straight up movie review if you saw it? At least we can read about it”
Holy shit. That had actually not occurred to me. Well, like to hear it, here it go.
But first, here’s a little personal account on the screening I attended which you might find interesting:
I was on Twitter, because I practically live on Twitter. It’s disgusting. Anyway, Seth Rogan had tweeted (and I’m paraphrasing): “Yo Boston come have a beer with me and watch The Interview! Send an email to yaddayaddayadda@blahblahblah.
I had to take the night off, and find a babysitter. I didn’t care. I wanted to meet Seth, and I wanted to see The Interview. We arrived two hours early to make sure we would get in. We waited in the entrance of a parking garage, on what I can only describe as outside carpeting. Outside enough to be freezing cold, inside enough that you couldn’t chain smoke while you waited.
When everyone was inside and Seth showed up, the place was just a totally different atmosphere. His jacket smelled like straight cheese. The kind of powerful stinky pot smell that you’ve only ever experienced in your dealer’s living room textiles. He really took the time to talk to as many people as possible, and laughed at every stupid joke and story he heard all night. *He answered questions. He made small talk. He shook hands. He even hugged me.
*Pro Tip: Seth Rogen has a rule: He will only autograph weed paraphernalia.
After the meet and greet, we headed into the theater. He and Evan Goldberg (who directed and co-wrote) made a small speech about how relieved they were that all of us were now on North Korea’s shit list with them.
The film began with Dave Skylark (Franco) interviewing celebrities. There is a sequence where he is interrogating Eminem about the homophobic lyrical content of his songs, and Eminem admits that he is, in fact, a homosexual. Skylark comes off as part Barbara Walters, part Geraldo Rivera, and just the sassiest bits of Graham Norton.
Behind the scenes, you see Aaron Rapaport (Rogen), engaged in the show’s production.
There is a celebration, something like 1000 episodes, I don’t quite remember. At the celebration, Rapaport runs into a fellow journalist friend (Anders Holm of Workaholics), who brags to him about the legitimacy of his career. Rapaport, whose show is more akin to E! News, feels the pressure. Has he made the right career choices? Are they making a difference in the world?
Conveniently, the pair of Skylark and Rapaport soon learn that Kim Jong-un, the supreme leader of North Korea, is a fan of Skylark’s show. They decide if they interview him, it will open the door for higher-profile guests and more journalistic credibility.
Rapaport has to travel to the middle of a mountain range in China, to be met by a North Korean helicopter. A female officer named Sook (Diana Bang) tells Rapaport that Kim Jong-un will grant them the interview. It is also revealed that they will control the subject matter and line of questioning.
Back in America, the boys get a visit from the CIA. Agent Lacey (Lizzy Caplan) asks them to “take him out”. This is a scene shown in many of the trailers. There is a little confusion on their part. Take him out… to dinner? Oh. Right. They want us to kill the leader of North Korea.
They reluctantly agree. It’s pretty hard to say no to the CIA. They are given information about Kim Jong-un’s practices as well as the methods he uses to manipulate the people of North Korea.
Skylark and Rapaport now participate in the other trailer-heavy scene, in which they play with spy gear and accidentally dose themselves with poison. It is decided that the method to assassinate Kim Jong-un will in fact be the poison, which is slow-acting but fatal. It is absorbed transdermally, so the target would receive the dose through his palm via handshake. They request to be rescued by a Seal team.
The two set off for Pyongyang, and are greeted by Officer Sook. En route to the estate of Kim Jong-un, Skylark notices a fat kid, and a well-stocked grocery store. He wonders if the rumors about starvation he had heard were really true. At the estate, their luggage is searched. Skylark had wanted to remain fashionable, and had used his own luggage in place of the CIA luggage with the hidden compartments. He transdermal poison applicator is found. Skylark quickly plays it off as a piece of gum, and one of the guards chews it.
Now what are they going to do? The poison is lost! They call the CIA on their smartwatches, and arrange to receive a package with two more doses of poison. Rapaport sneaks out to receive the package. There is a near-death experience involving a tiger, and the package is dropped. The guards heard the noises and Rapaport is forced to hide the rather large delivery in the back door.
Kim Jong-un treats Skylark like a king. They bond over a mutual guilty pleasure, Katy Perry. They take a ride in the tank. They play games. They eat food. They confide in each other. At dinner, the guard who had ingested the poison dies in a rather unpleasant way. Skylark decides that he can’t bring himself to kill Kim Jong-un, and throws the poison strip away. Rapaport decides to take matters into his own hands, and applies the final poison strip to his own hand, determined to shake the hand of Kim Jong-un and put an end to it. He is visited by Sook, who confesses that she actually despises the leader and hopes to see his reign come to an end. She also confesses that she has feelings for Rapaport, and they attempt to snog while he keeps his hand outstretched so that he doesn’t accidentally poison her. She is totally into the whole no-hands thing.
Meanwhile, Skylark revisits the town and discovers that the grocery store is a fake, and all the fruit is plastic. He doubts it was even a real fat kid. He is deeply disappointed, and feels betrayed by Kim Jong-un, whom he had grown to call his friend.
Skylark decides that he will still interview Kim Jong-un, but he will ask him the hard-hitting questions that he should have all along.
Skylark, Rapaport, and Sook all prepare to stage a coup. Rapaport and Sook finally get to consummate their relationship in the armory.
The time has come for the interview and Kim Jong-un is not done buttering up his new friend: he gifts him with a puppy. Skylark literally can’t even, but starts asking him the hard questions anyway. About starvation. About the rumors of mistreatment, imprisonment, etc. He gets Kim Jong-un to cry on air.
In the production room, the crew is going crazy. Rapaport and Sook won’t let them cut the feed. A fight breaks out, and Rapaport gets a few of his fingers bitten off. Sook blows about a zillion people away with automatic weapons.
The three of them take off, puppy in hand, in an attempt to escape. They steal the tank. Kim Jong-un comes after them in his helicopter. After a frenzied battle with more explosions that Michael Bay can shake a stick at, Kim Jong-un’s helicopter is blown up, and our heroes escape into a hidden passageway. Sook tells them she must leave them here, to rebuild North Korea. They escape and are rescued by a Seal team.
If I forgot anything, or got any of it wrong, forgive me. I was drinking when I saw it, and I didn’t exactly expect the pop quiz.
The film had some very funny moments, and some that fell a little flat. The type of humor was not unlike their other films. There were action scenes, violence, and maybe just a little more of Rogen’s nipples than we really needed. But it was harmless. Absolutely harmless. I am still baffled by Sony’s decision, as well as the cowardice of the major movie chains who refused to screen the film before the official announcement from Sony.
I hope this synopsis offers some relief to those of you who were hoping to see the film on Christmas.