Bob Franken: ‘The Interview’: A real farce

  • By Bob Franken
  • Tuesday, December 30, 2014 4:10pm
  • Opinion

Normally, I don’t do movie reviews, but rarely am I so attached to a film. I’m speaking, of course, of “The Interview,” a cinematic masterpiece starring Seth Rogen, who also directs, and James Franco, who plays the totally vacuous TV host Dave Skylark. Since I’m someone who has spent a professional lifetime in television, you can imagine how much I identified with Skylark.

So, here’s the review: “The Interview” was juvenile, crude and downright stupid. I loved it. Truth be known, I was planning to see it even before it became our patriotic duty. We can’t let a few North Korean hackers tell us what we shouldn’t watch, now can we? After all, that’s what President Barack Obama said.

That was after Sony went through its will-we-or-won’t-we-release-it gyrations and after the hackers who had shredded the studio’s reputation threatened mayhem if theaters showed it.

Well, after more indecision than a management meeting, a limited number did, and deals were worked out so that we didn’t have to leave our couches to dumb down even further. By now you know the plot: The show host and his producer travel to Pyongyang to interview Kim Jong Un and, at the behest of a hot female CIA agent, agree to assassinate the fictionalized real-life leader of the hermit kingdom. Ultimately, Kim gets vaporized. But not before a whole lot of the usual sex and toilet humor. Sophisticated it’s not.

And pleased the North Koreans were not. Understandably. So their leaders made their typical threats. If you want to get some laughs, check out the way these guys respond when someone, anyone, pulls their chain. Their rhetoric often has gone racist — referring, for instance, to President Obama as a “monkey.” And how about this recent gem, after North Korea’s Internet system crashed? “The United States, with its large physical size and oblivious to the shame of playing hide and seek as children with runny noses would, has begun disrupting the Internet operations of the main media outlets of our republic …” Their noses are definitely out of joint. Runny or not.

Through it all, it’s unclear whether they were even the ones who hacked Sony out of pique over the movie, in the process making mincemeat of the mega-corporation’s cyberstructure. The FBI says it was the North Koreans who were the guilty party; many experts say the FBI is clueless.

If it was not enough that some studio data became public and caused severe embarrassment for all they revealed, someone TBD, operating under the alias “Guardians of Peace” (has everyone noticed that its initials are “G.O.P.”?), followed up with threats against the venues showing “The Interview.”

You know the rest. After a lot of that waffling, the movie got limited release. Perhaps now it will become a holiday classic — something like “It’s a Wonderful Strife” or “The Kim That Stole Christmas.” You never know.

Questions abound: Beyond knowing who hacked Sony, who was responsible when North Korea’s Internet went down? Not that it was any big deal, since the country’s entire system is small enough to fit into a coffee shop with WiFi. Was that the “proportional response” promised by POTUS or was it the handiwork of some dweeby kid who decided to have fun with Kim? Back to Sony’s debacle, let’s not forget that other theory out there, that the culprit is some Sony insider, present or former, bent on glorious revenge.

And there’s even something for the conspiracy theorists, another idea making the rounds is that this was really just some diabolically clever marketing plan to get people to pay money to see “The Interview.” But that would have to assume that Sony executives are incredibly smart. The trove of their emails would strongly suggest that’s not the case.

Whatever and whoever, my review is a definite thumbs-up. Given this movie, maybe a different digit would be appropriate.

Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.

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