Last night I watched The Interview, the movie the forthcoming release of which was allegedly the impetus behind a massive hack of Sony. Almost immediately responsibility for the hack was ascribed to North Korea. I understand that those much more knowledgeable on the subject have since cast earnest doubt on whether that was in fact the case. On two occasions since someone has shut down North Korea’s internet access with various forms of attack.
And so forth, in other words.
We are told that North Korea was moved to hack Sony, which made the movie, by anger at the movie’s portrayal not only of their shitty little country, but also by the pretty graphic depiction of Kim Jong Un’s assassination at the hands of two — well, “unprepossessing” is about the most charitable expression — American pop-culture television clowns.
Don’t get me wrong. This little snot who’s running North Korea is perfectly capable of not taking a joke, and reacting in ways that are massively beyond any reason. Among his earlier noteworthy killings was of a general whom he thought insufficiently enthusiastic about his accession upon Kim’s pappy’s death. He had the officer tied to a stake which had been sunk into the ground at a point on which multiple artillery pieces had been painstakingly registered. Then they blew him to shreds. Later on he had an uncle arrested and not only had him killed but apparently his entire family as well, including spouses and youngest descendants, small children. I saw reports — can’t say whether they were ever confirmed — that he had uncle killed by setting a pack of dogs on him that had been starved for an extended period. So they ate him alive.
But this movie? It’s neither very funny nor very insightful. “Sophomoric” gives it a bit more credit than it’s due. I’d put it at somewhere around seventh-grade level, because that’s about the oldest that you can reliably expect children to be intrigued by the clumsy sight gags (most involving gratuitous fake blood and suchlike). Every character in it — including the two leads — is pasteboard. Yes, I understand: It’s a comedy, and in a comedy you don’t go looking for development, depth, irony, contradiction, or really much of the rest of what makes humans interesting to observe. I’m judging it by the standards of other funny movies, and these characters are still pasteboard.
The closest it gets to a serious moment is when one of the leads strolls into a storefront — implausibly left unlocked — and discovers that what he thought was a bustling, well-stock corner grocery is actually fake fruits and vegetables in bins set out in front of photo panels of packed shelves and gleaming aisles. He stomps on a few pieces of the fake stuff, grabs a couple, steps back out onto the sidewalk and screams, “Liar!” at the top of his lungs at one of the ubiquitous enormous pictures of Li’l Kim that confront the viewer everywhere in that country. A close second comes in the actual interview itself when the same character asks Kim if he doesn’t think his people deserve some sort of reward for having endured all the decades of assault and hostility from the entire rest of the world. Kim of course agrees, and then interviewer asks him, “So why don’t you feed them?”
That’s it. Two minutes, tops, out of the entire movie.
The Sony hack involved the release of e-mails in which their senior executives make the mistake of being entirely honest about some of their products and performers. I’ll confess to no small glee when I read of Angelina Jolie being described as a minimally-talented, spoiled brat of an actress, or something like that. Whatever else she may be, she is emphatically not, as she is characterized on the cover of a recent pop-culture rag, “intriguing” in any degree, either in herself or in relation to anyone or anything else. Nice figure and all, at least to the extent it’s actually hers and not the product of a surgeon’s knife, but I’ve never seen her in any performance, or read or heard any pronouncement by her, that suggests she’s any more intriguing than the squeegee man who smears your windshield as you wait for the light to change. But dear ol’ Angie makes a raft-load of money for Sony, and so it savors of delightful malice to have the bigwigs call her out. “Very awkward, by God!” as the Duke of Wellington observed about William IV’s public rant at the Duchess of Kent (which scene is accurately portrayed in The Young Victoria, by the way, but sadly without working in the Iron Duke’s comment).
So were it not for the release of those inconvenient e-mails I’d suspect the hack of being a false-flag operation by Sony to drum up interest in an entirely forgettable movie. As it is, this movie will pull in vastly more money than it ever deserves, and more of a fuss will be made about it than it could possibly merit. If it was North Korea who cracked open the seal at Sony, all they’ve done is learn something about the Streisand Effect.