‘The Interview’ is worth $6 and not a penny more
Published 1:55 pm Tuesday, January 6, 2015
It’s safe to say Khrushchev mustn’t have known whom to kidnap at United Artists back in the day. Else, a much more important movie in the annals of political thrillers might have been kept from theaters out of fear of reprisal.
That thought controls my mind like a megalomaniacal dictator after I contributed to the millions in revenue that’s flowed to YouTube and Google Play to watch “The Interview” since Sony Pictures Entertainment restored some logic to the world and released it online. A quick pop-up here — Sony, the parent company of Columbia Pictures, the film’s distributor, had its computer networks hacked by an anonymous group with suspected ties to North Korea promising mayhem to any movie house that showed it. Within a week of its posting Dec. 24, the films made $15 million in online rentals or sales. Score up at least that much for freedom and capitalism, for sure.
Perceptions of what makes a guilty-pleasure comedy have evolved since my grandparents’ generation. So have the same for political satire. For any of you whose inner frat boy had to be appeased by films like “The Hangover” or “Old School” in recent years, you’ll likely gravitate to “The Interview”. Actors Seth Rogen and James Franco, whose choices of characters embody the very food that feeds said frat boy, play a producer and host of a talk show that’s more TMZ than it is CBS. The whole thing flips when they learn North Korean leader Kim Jong-un likes the show. An interview request morphs quickly into an assassination plot, and the ride begins.
Email newsletter signup
Viewers save money by taking advantage of Sony’s online release deal to us free speech fanatics. I preferred paying $6 to “rent” the film on the web than to deal with hundreds-percent markup at a theater for popcorn. And you can watch it while propped up in bed with a tasty beverage if you want to. Still, it doesn’t take a pro film critic to think of movies much more worth getting hot and bothered over if you’re in charge of an anti-capitalist government than this latest Rogen/Franco party train.
For starters, there was the Cold War-era thriller “The Manchurian Candidate” in 1962, the first adaptation of Richard Condon’s 1959 novel of the same name. Imagine this scenario — an international communist conspiracy flick that features an assassination plot at a U.S. political party convention released smack in the middle of the Cuban Missile Crisis. It happened precisely that way, with Castro’s dangerous Soviet-made rockets pointed squarely at us. Distribution of the Oscar-nominated classic was in and out in those pre-web dark ages, but there was no similar pre-release hubbub on par with what we saw last month.
The Soviet response was equally light two decades later for a movie far less heavy in content, yet still mildly critical of the military-industrial complex. “Spies Like Us” had Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase used as decoys by boilerplate neocon-types at the Pentagon who want to launch a ballistic missile against their own country to show off the country’s missile defense system. I guess a more muscular Soviet regime at the time would’ve taken issue with being seen as gullible enough to let a couple of bumblers wander into Siberia and commandeer their missile system. The USSR would be no more in just a few short years.
What’s different with “The Interview” is that it’s a pretty clear-cut plot against a foe regime wrapped in all that Rogen/Franco bathroom humor. With the other two movies, you have the enemy aided by sympathizers and bumblers of various stripes. Emails by the hundreds came out of the hack scandal, some of it internal snark-talk about the Hollywood grapevine. My main question when the credits rolled?
George Clooney’s inner thoughts were leaked over THAT?