Last week, President Barack Obama ordered sanctions against North Korea for allegedly hacking Sony Pictures Entertainment’s computer system. Thus, the ongoing drama over the film The Interview continues to create more spectacle than the mediocre movie warrants.
This much-ado-about-nothing charade began last month when Sony employees’ private emails and sensitive information were publicly exposed shortly before the release of The Interview, a comedy that gleefully plots the assassination of dictator Kim Jong-un. Besides demonstrating its bad taste in promoting the killing of another country’s leader as entertaining fare, the movie also perpetuates stereotypes of Asians. Witness the four “Hot Korean Girl” credits listed on IMDB.
The storyline is about two wild and crazy guys, Dave Skylark (James Franco), a popular television host, and his best friend and producer, Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen). Skylark is so trendy that while interviewing Eminem on live TV, he’s handed an exclusive when the homophobic rapper admits he’s gay. And that’s just the beginning of many such jokes told at the expense of homosexuality.
Soon, Skylark gets a call from Kim Jong-un’s staff. It seems the dictator is a huge fan of his show and wants to offer him a private interview. Skylark is flattered while Rapoport is hopeful that it will purge the show of its celebrity gossip reputation. But when the CIA learns about the pending interview, they request the two kill the dictator. The rest of the film is a mishmash of missed opportunities, an unexpected bond between Skylark and Jong-Un, and gorgeous women who just can’t help but desire the dumb Rapoport and dumber Skylark.
All the usual distasteful jokes about sexual organs, gratuitous violence like bodies being blown apart, and an unexplained obsession with anuses and what goes into and comes out of them are featured—which makes the film perfect for 14-year-old males who are any studio’s target demographic. After a while the sexual innuendo, titillation about latent homosexuality, and cherry blossom Asian women throwing themselves at big, hairy “pink nippled” American men becomes tiresome. Franco is particularly annoying with his appropriation of black culture by morphing into a replica of an Ebonics-speaking, urban “brotha”.
Although billed as “satire,” there’s no intellectual lampooning here. Instead of a tongue-in-cheek examination of international politics, the movie plays to the unformed minds of teenage boys by aiming for belly laughs. However, one scene does suggest parody and that’s a knock-off of the viral YouTube clip where a group of cute North Korean children play classical guitars onstage while forcing broad smiles. So accurately replicated, it doesn’t immediately register as a copy.
As for Asians in the film, they’re American actors mostly playing North Koreans. Already having the unwanted distinction of being labeled “foreign” more than any other group in the United States, Asian Americans should dread a film like this that has the potential to teach a new generation with the message that Asians are still outsiders no matter how long they’ve been in America. While Randall Park does an excellent job as an emoting Kim Jong-un, his skills are wasted in this idiotic tale.
Following the Sony hack, fingers pointed at North Korea accusing them of seeking revenge after being offended by the movie’s premise. North Korea then lobbed back threats warning theaters not to show the film. Fearing a security nightmare, the major cineplexes cancelled all scheduled screenings. But then President Obama jumped into the melee accusing Sony of bowing to pressure. Pushing back, Sony then backtracked and offered the movie on the Internet and in limited release at smaller art-house theaters on Christmas Day. But even as the FBI blamed North Korea for the hack that started it all, others in the tech community have blatantly stated the country doesn’t have the capability, and the culprit is a Sony insider. Still, some Americans—shrieking about patriotism and free speech—dared a Communist country to tell them what to watch and flooded theaters or downloaded the movie in record numbers. Ironically, Sony, a Japanese electronics company that penetrated the film industry, and both Koreas have a strained relationship.
With President Obama’s sanctions, The Interview is probably now the most controversial film that’s never been widely released. In fact, it has enjoyed unparalleled publicity generated by the uproar, causing some to question whether the hacking was done intentionally for maximum exposure. Interestingly, events surrounding the launch of the movie appear to be a badly contrived plot for a movie. Further, all the back and forth public bickering is as juvenile as the film itself.