From a public relations standpoint, The Interview is a huge success story for Sony. After the Guardians of the Peace hacked Sony’s servers, released thousands of emails, and threatened violence against movie theaters planning to screen The Interview, Tim League at the Alamo Drafthouse and the Art House Convergence essentially saved Sony’s ass by agreeing to screen The Interview on Christmas Day. YouTube and some other media platforms quickly followed suit, and yesterday, The Interview made $1 million in 330 theaters on Christmas Day, it was the most rented movie on Google Play, and it was also downloaded illegally one million times on the torrents.
A lot of people saw The Interview yesterday, which was a nice f*ck you not only to North Korea, but to major theater chains. It was also a nice show of support for Seth Rogen, James Franco, and for audience’s perceptions of free speech (there wasn’t actually a free speech issue involved here, but audiences believed there was, and perception is as important as reality for an issue like this).
It was a huge win for Sony, for The Interview, and a huge blow to cyberterrorists who believed they could dictate content in America: It was one of those nicely unifying moments that brought everyone of every political stripe together (except for Greta Van Susteren) in support of a stoner comedy.
It’s too bad the movie itself was unworthy of all this fuss. To be fair, anything short of the South Park movie would’ve been anticlimactic, but The Interview had the misfortune of also not being a very good movie. It’s one of those ideas that sound better in your head (especially if you’re high) than it looks onscreen, like one of those epiphanies you have at 2 a.m. during a bout of insomnia that you realize is terrible the moment you wake up.
In fact, Seth Rogen — who co-wrote and co-directed The Interview — may be succumbing to the Kevin Smith condition: He’s smoked so much pot that he’s lost his filter and his ability to self-edit (ironically, it was Seth Rogen who turned Kevin Smith into a full-time stoner). The Interview is an aimless, meandering comedy that comes in at nearly two hours when it could’ve easily been edited into under an hour and a half. So much of it could’ve only been funny in the mind of someone who was blazed out of his head, which is great for a certain kind of audience, but for the rest of us, it was like being the sober guy at a party of rambling potheads who are under the illusion that their rambling banalities are actually enlightening.
A plot synopsis seems wholly unnecessary; the gist of it is that Dave Skylark (James Franco) and producer Aaron Rapoport (Rogen) — who run a TMZ-like celebrity talk show — are granted an interview with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. The CIA (via Lizzy Caplan’s Agent Lacy) gets involved, and a plan to assassinate John-un is hatched. Rapoport and Skylark bumble the assassination attempt for an hour and a half, Rogen hits it off with Jong-un’s publicist, Skylark befriends an adorable dog, and Katy Perry and Scorpion ultimately help to usher in democracy to North Korea. Oh, and Eminem is gay.
The Interview is not nearly as bad as Rogen’s other Christmas Day misfire, The Guilt Trip (with Barbra Streisand), but it’s easily in the bottom third of Rogen’s oeuvre. It has no teeth; the comedy is overly broad; and Rogen and Franco turn in Adam Sandler-like performances, which is to say: They’re having a lazy good time, and they don’t really give a sh*t if the audience is enjoying themselves or not. In fact, it’s exactly the kind of movie that continues to make the case for comedies bypassing theaters and going straight to home streaming services: It’s perfect background noise while you’re playing Sim City on your phone, but there’s not nearly enough to The Interview to keep your concentration focused for nearly two hours. It’s perfect multitasking viewing.