The Interview will not be playing at your local Cineplex. It will not be available on DVD, or on your favorite streaming service. It may not even be available for viewing at any future party at James Franco’s house. The Interview has been canceled. Have you heard?
Poor Sony Corporation; it has been embarrassed and cowered by North Korean hackers. Who knew North Korea had the wherewithal to function at such a high level of cyber crime? Certainly not Sony or Seth Rogan. The leadership of North Korea has been fodder for much amusement in American humor over the years. It seems a fair target, if rather low-hanging fruit.
This is a big story. It brings up questions tied to global political pressures, corporate power and autonomy, censorship, cyber security, governmental and corporate secrets, Hollywood power structures, and so on. For a smattering of immediate reactions to the issues surrounding the now-failed film release, see the following:
Brett Lang in Variety: Sony Cancels Release — Variety
FoxNews online: Sony Cancels Release — FoxNews
Kyle Smith in the New York Post: Sony Cowardice — New York Post
Of course, my interest in this forum is American Humor. How should lovers of American humor respond to the shut-down/take down of a film featuring Seth Rogan, one of the most successful comedic minds of the last ten years?
So, this is a big story for American film comedy. What are the limitations of good taste or common sense or business sense when it comes to spending 44 million dollars on a film built around the premise of having shallow, dim-witted television personalities work for the CIA to assassinate Kim Jung-Un, the leader of North Korea? Does anyone say “no” to the Seth Rogan syndicate? What are the implications for the limits of comedy? Here is a link the most controversial–I would say ridiculous–part of the film, the death scene of the character Kim Jung-Un, as provided on YouTube via the New York Post:
Does the storyline cross a line of good taste? A Seth Rogan movie crossing the line of good taste? Not a chance. That statement is sarcastic, I should add; I have a love-hate relationship with Roganism, as I laugh heartily one moment in any of his films and then despise the vulgarity and degradation inherent in the next. Maybe I am too old. He makes me laugh; he makes me cringe. The cringe factor encouraged by Seth Rogan is not from any boldness and risk-taking courage on his part. Rather, it comes from his adolescence.
In any case, it is not hard to consider that perhaps this film was a bad idea from the beginning. I hasten to add that I am always inclined to support the freedom of speech of all comedians and do so in this case. That is not a difficult stance to take. Hackers stowed away in the bowels of some North Korean government bunker do not carry much weight with me regarding any discussion of censorship. So I am not interested in debating whether or not The Interview should have been made on such grounds. Moreover, I certainly question the wisdom of Sony to bow to the hacker’s demands. But enough of that. I have included links above for plenty of thoughts on that issue. And there is much more debate on such substantive issues to come from any number or more thoughtful viewers.
More interesting to me is whether or not The Interview should have been made as a work of comedic art. Really, was there ANYthing promising in this movie regarding its potential to contribute to the overall quality of American film comedy? Certainly nothing in the promos came even remotely close to being funny.
In at least one version of television promotions, we see Seth Rogan, shirtless, shaking his chubbiness for North Koreans to admire…..James Franco getting a poisoned slip of paper on his tongue… Seth Rogan getting the same poisoned slip of paper on his ass.
“Whhhhaaaaaaat?,”says James Franco.
Here is a link to the “official” trailer for the film:
Gold, Jerry, comic gold!
Richard Brody, in the New Yorker online asks: “Why isn’t the movie actually very funny?” See: Brody on The Interview
Brody is focused primarily on the political issues tied to the most controversial portion of the film, the graphic death scene of character Kim Jung-Un. Moreover, has had the benefit of seeing the film–alas, the he somehow has more power-of-access to media than I do. His question, though, is the right one. Brody asks the essential question as the film related to American humor. Is it funny? His answer is clear: No. The rest of us know that from the promotional clips.
So, have we lost anything? Sony has. Rogan/Franco have. As to audiences? –Not likely.
We will not get to see The Interview. Well, that is probably not true. It will make its way to audiences via the work of hackers using many of the same skills that allowed for the hacking of Sony to begin with and all long before it sees any official release. At this point, Sony claims that it has NO plans to ever release it. It’s a very bad day for Sony, for Rogan and company. It’s not so bad for film comedy, though.
I tend to think that we may survive the loss and may be willing to put that short-term loss into the long-term “win” column for the legacy of American film comedy. I will wait optimistically for the next Rogan production and hope that this stunning setback will not stop him. And with that wishful statement, I will close with a side-note to Seth Rogan: try harder.