When Charlie Chaplin's Hitler satire The Great Dictator was in production, the British government announced that it would not allow the film to screen in the country due to an appeasement agreement with Germany. By the release date, World War II had come to the UK, and the ban was lifted.
Will it take a similar act of war to release The Interview? Or is it the first casualty in a new type of warfare? Sony Pictures has been suffering the fallout from an unprecedented corporate data hack, and theater chains developed cold feet after an internet terrorist group calling themselves Guardians of Peace (how can you not at least snicker at that acronym?) threatened action against the cinemas themselves. The result is the first-ever politically motivated cancellation of a major US release, and it appears that no one is willing to commit the "brave" act of simply screening the movie in public, which raises all sorts of complicated questions about censorship, business, piracy, and terrorism.
And then there's the even bigger complication: As a piece of entertainment, The Interview is completely forgettable. Or rather, it would be, if not for the whole end-of-the-world thing. There's a very good argument that this shouldn't matter, but let's just take a moment to pretend it does. In the unlikely event that WWIII has already started, it'd be nice to set the record straight about what lit the fuse. The latest from the filmmaking team of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg—whose gleefully rude stoner action-comedies include Superbad, Pineapple Express, and This Is the End—is also the least successful. The film uses the premise of a pair of bumbling Americans tasked with assassinating North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un only as an excuse for jokes about dicks, butts, boobs, homo-bromance, pot, Katy Perry, and more dicks. While some gags are keepers—a recurring reference to Kim lacking a butthole is inspired—most are simply buried under an avalanche of dusty gags. Oh, look: Seth Rogen pouring booze all over himself in extreme slow motion. We get it, already.
The most original aspect of The Interview is the portrayal of Kim Jong-un, played with a terrifying charm by Randall Park. The North Korean dictator is allowed to fire off some scathing bon mots about America's rampant materialism and broken prison system, and is shown to be surprisingly human—a rich brat driven by the most universal of dark motivations: daddy issues. On the international stage, he is a ruthless despot—but on screen, he is just a big, angry, lonely baby. (And a ruthless despot.)
By the time The Interview wraps up with Rogen/Goldberg's signature over-the-top violence (which was considerably toned down, according to leaked Sony documents), the film feels like little more than a live-action rehash of Trey Parker and Matt Stone's gloriously rude 2004 puppet musical Team America: World Police, which Texas-based Alamo Drafthouse Cinema announced would be replacing its canceled engagement of The Interview. Until that film was also pulled from release. America—fuck me.
"David Manning Jr." works in the film industry and saw a sneak preview of The Interview before its cancellation.