Tickets to the New York premiere of “The Interview,” the wildly satirical film by Seth Rogen and James Franco, could still be ordered until Thursday morning. But after Sony Pictures decided to pull the film, which is about two television broadcasters who try to assassinate the leader of North Korea, prospective viewers were told that all screenings had been canceled.
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For the moment, it seems that the Rogen-Franco collaboration will enter the cinema pantheon as the first Hollywood movie to be shelved because of anonymous email threats.
Last week, shortly before the threats to harm filmgoers with 9/11-style attacks reached the media, two festive screenings of the film were held in Los Angeles - followed by fairly harsh reviews. For example, the film got only a 54 percent Fresh rating on the Rotten Tomatoes film-review website (based on 26 reviews).
If we judge by the reviews that were posted and the three trailers that were shared over the Internet, “The Interview” is a fairly vulgar comedy with countless jokes about the male sexual organ and the ability to shove technologically sophisticated spy devices where the sun don’t shine.
And if we judge by the reviews that have been published so far, setting aside the threats and the fact that the film was pulled, no one would likely devote all that many words to just another product from the prolific production line of Rogen and Co.
Scott Foundas of Variety called the film “a terror attack ... against comedy.” Richard Corliss of Time magazine wrote: “If you’re hoping for any cogent political satire here, then the joke’s on you.” Entertainment Weekly said: “A dangerous comedy about a dangerous regime shouldn’t be safe for suburban dads.”
Slant’s review was almost as cruel as the hackers had been, saying that the film “essentially uses major global issues to cheaply dress up what is two hours of hit-and-miss erection jokes.”
Despite the potential of subjecting the American mass media and the dictatorship that Kim Jong-un inherited from his father to biting cultural satire, the fact that the film was shot in Vancouver (which was supposed to play the role of Pyongyang in North Korea) and place the film’s second half on Jong-un’s estate disappointed most reviewers.
They complained that the film was too long and repetitive and that it used worn-out physical jokes that are well known from other films involving Rogen and Franco (such as their previous collaboration, “This Is the End”).
Still, there were a few points of light: Quite a few reviewers praised the performance of Randall Park, who plays the role of Kim Jong-un.
In the end, “The Interview” is a fairly forgettable comedy that got incredible publicity because of the hackers’ attack.
Actor Randall Park, center, portrays North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in "The Interview." Photo by AP
Were it not for the fact that Sony stands to lose tens of millions of dollars from shelving the film (unless its insurance company covers the damages), we might have believed for a moment that the online attack was a sick but brilliantly clever PR stunt.
Considering the interest that the film has piqued all over the world, it’s probably only a matter of time before a pirate copy pops up on Internet-download sites.