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Culture

The Interview: What You Should Know

I finally got a chance to watch The Interview – a few days after its release, following its infamous non-release by Sony, in the wake of the cyberattacks that caused the company to retreat, sparking intense backlash from liberals and conservatives alike, and from President Obama, until it reversed course and proceeded as planned.

The cynic in me cannot help but wonder whether behind Sony’s push-and-pull was the motivation to increase exposure to the film which, needless to say was the case, as many Americans – myself included – never would have watched it otherwise. Though I try not to get suckered in to conspiracy theories…

Screwball comedy spoofs are typically not my thing, and so, like millions of other Americans, the only reason I devoted two hours of precious time to watching it is because I figured North Korea President Kim Jong-un didn’t want me to.

The movie portrays the estranged (and strange) North Korean leader – played masterfully by actor Randall Park (a native Californian with South Korean roots) in a most unflattering manner. Apparently, Kim and his cohorts took great offense to the satirical film, called it an “act of war” and vowed “merciless” retaliation. Well, what happened was that Sony’s computer system was hacked, but North Korea denied culpability and even said they’d help the United States find the culprit. Shortly thereafter, all of North Korea lost its Internet for a day. The United States did not comment, though it’s answer should have been: “we are just as innocent as you are.”

PLOT

No spoilers here – just some background to set up the plot: Director Seth Rogen stars as Aaron Rapoport, who produces the gossipy talk show Skylark Tonight, hosted by his best buddy Dave Skylark (played by James Franco). As it turns out, Kim is a fan of the show, and so the ambitious duo try to score an interview with the North Korean leader – and they get one! But the CIA finds out and hatches a plan whereby Skylark and Rapoport will kill Kim! Hence, the “screwball” aspect of the comedy.

NOT A FAMILY MOVIE!

Threats by rogue foreign leaders make for strange bedfellows, as Rogen’s edgy humor is subject to button-down, churchgoing Fox News watchers who couldn’t wait to spend Christmas Day watching The Interview just to irk Kim Jong-un. Reflecting on the movie’s seemingly endless sexual references, most too crude for most tastes, I can only imagine what it might have been like in some homes, with an array of generations staring at the same TV set (or computer screen). NOTE: this is not a movie to watch with the folks – or with Yiayia – unless she doesn’t understand any English.

STRONG MESSAGE

Though The Interview will hardly go down in history as a classic, it certainly has more social significance than the run-of-the-mill zany comedy. A good portion of the movie focuses on the North Koreans’ belief – and yes, this is actual widespread propaganda – that Kim, like his father before him, possesses certain god-like qualities. Reportedly, millions of North Koreans believe Kim, like his father and grandfather, could do things such as control the weather with their minds, learn to walk when only a few weeks old, and not have to use the bathroom. That these beliefs are mocked in the film and exposed as propaganda fueled Kim’s concern that the movie should not be released, lest it fall into the hands of the masses in his country.

Bottom line: if you can stomach some Howard Stern-like sexual references and tolerate a goofy and highly implausible plotline, you will emerge having seen a better movie than you might have expected, and in the process scored a victory for free speech, while thumbing your nose at one of the world’s biggest America-haters.

 

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