Our guarantee of freshness:
Seasoned readers are by now familiar with WOOF’s habit of reviewing films from time to time, and equally aware, we presume, of our iron-clad rule that no film will be reviewed on our website unless our reviewers have scrupulously avoided seeing it. We believe our strict adherence to this standard ensures that ours are the fairest, most impartial cinema critiques anywhere in cyberspace inasmuch as limiting ourselves to movies we haven’t seen frees our analyses of those partialities that would inevitably accrue during any actual exposure to the works under consideration. Apparently quite a few of you agree, as our movie reviews are always among our most popular posts, and among the most visited after time has swept them from our ‘front page’ to our archives. It is therefore with considerable pleasure, and not a little reportorial pride, that we present our fifth film review of a movie we haven’t seen, and focus our critical faculties on: The Interview. (And we admit it here bluntly, gentle readers: it would annoy us not a wit were the North Koreans to hack our site, as the publicity would be primo!)
The Innocence of Comedians
Once upon a time there were two funny fellows—and given this description it will surprise no one to learn that they lived in Hollywood. They also made movies—but you saw that one coming, too, didn’t you! In years past, the two fellows appeared in many successful films such as Pineapple Express, Knocked Up, Spring Breakers, and Superbad. Perhaps you never saw any of these movies—perhaps you never even heard of them; but they all contained lots of fart jokes and poop jokes and made money and the funny fellows were encouraged to continue making movies. And for a time, all seemed well…
And then, one day these fellows, whose names were (and continue to be) Seth Rogen and James Franco, got together with two more fellows (also funny) named Dan Sterling and Evan Goldberg and decided to make an especially funny movie in which reporters interact amusingly with actor Randall Park in the role of Kim Jong-un, the endlessly amusing communist dictator of North Korea. And when the four friends told Sony, a major media corporation, about their idea, Sony thought it seemed very funny indeed, and said, “Here’s 44 million dollars, go make your movie, and be sure to include lots of fart and poop jokes!”
Those were innocent, carefree days indeed, gentle readers, but ominous skies began to gather and soon threatened the formerly tranquil and serene sound stages at Columbia pictures with a new and unanticipated evil— the wrath of Kim Jong-un, meaning the real Kim Jong-un, not the character in the four fellows’ especially funny movie. And in real North Korea, the real Kim Jong-un was not amused—so unamused was he that in June the North Koreans issued vociferous threats of “merciless retaliation” against Columbia Pictures (a subsidiary of Sony) if the film were released in October, as scheduled. Nobody took this very seriously, however.
First, consider the source–and secondly, had not the world been treated only recently to the cinematic spectacle of Kim’s venerable father, Kim Il Sung, being impaled on the spike of a Prussian helmet and revealed to be an alien cockroach from the planet Gyron in the highly successful Hollywood romp World Police? And nary a murmur out of North Korea over that one, right? But let us not get ahead of ourselves, gentle readers- let us begin where the Red Queen directed Alice to make a habit of beginning: At the beginning. So roll film!
In the beginning:
As The Interview opens we are treated to an unforgettable musical number rendered by a small Korean girl who sweetly sings “Die, America, Die” (only in Korean, of course) while phalanxes of communist soldiers stand rigidly at grim attention. The lyrics are offered in English subtitles, and include such sentiments as “may the United States be starved and ravaged by disease; may your women be raped by beasts of the jungle,” and so on. The number concludes with a thoroughly menacing missile launch. Otherwise, this frolicsome action-comedy seems inoffensive enough at the outset as we are swept to a television studio where a verasimiltudenously moronic TV journalist, Dave Skylark (James Franco), and his less imbecilic but equally amusing producer, Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen), are plodding along at the helm of a pathetically third-rate celebrity tabloid program called “Skylark Tonight.” Skylark has just wrapped up an episode in which Eminem reveals that his entire corpus of work amounts to an encrypted anthem to homosexuality (which, frankly, we thought everyone already realized), when the host and his producer receive the news that changes everything: Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s infamous Pillsbury dough-tyrant, turns out to be a huge fan of the program…perhaps the only huge fan of the program… but Kim’s admiration is good for a ticket to the top, they reason, if they can just bag an interview with the elusive potentate. A request is politely issued, and when Kim responds favorably our heroes rejoice in the certainty that, for Skylark Tonight, the road to TV immortality runs straight through Pyongyang.
So why might the actual Kim Jong-un take so dim a view of a film that humanizes him and arguably renders him worthy of sympathy and affection? Isn’t that what those useful idiots in Hollywood are supposed to do? It is, we submit, a tribute to the almost paranormal tendency of life to emulate art that Rogen’s and Franco’s vexations in vivo began almost simultaneously with their characters’ difficulties in The Interview. We venture to infer that this otherwise unremarkable buddy film first caught the unfavorable eye of North Korea’s Supreme Leader, about the time Lizzy Caplan (who previously starred in Masters of Sex, which we never reviewed despite never having seen it) shows up at our heroes’ doorstep. Skylark and Rapoport are about to set out for North Korea with nothing but the fluffiest of pop-journalistic intentions, when fate takes a particularly ruthless hand. Miss Caplan, looking drop-dead gorgeous in what can best be described as a blue, form-fitting, low-cut trenchcoat–perhaps the only one of its kind– flashes her credentials and informs the bush-league newscasters that the CIA needs them, and needs them badly. She proceeds to show Skylark and Rapoport a mound of evidence that North Korea has developed an intercontinental ballistic missile (presumably the one we saw launched at the film’s opening) that can hit California. The communists, she says, have fitted this missile out with a nuclear warhead and are preparing to destroy the West Coast. Further, she assures the bollixed entertainers, only the assassination of Kim Jong-un can prevent the impending holocaust, making our heroes indispensable because of their forthcoming interview with the target, especially since the CIA’s every previous attempt to insert an agent into Kim’s inner circle has (gulp!) failed and our heroes are the only game in town.
The perspicacious reader (which we assume describes everyone at this site) may be forgiven for hiking an eyebrow at this juncture, and opining that Rogen’s, Sterling’s and Evans’s script just hung a “crazy Ivan,” veering into the realm of implausibility–not because the CIA might be in earnest of recruiting two losers like Skylark and Rapoport, but rather because they succeed in doing so. What contemporary media personality would dream of consenting to become a conscious operative of the Central Intelligence Agency, let alone to killing a foreign head of state, and most particularly, a communist one? The liberal entertainment industry may find it temporarily expedient to portray the liberal media establishment (however tackily represented) as willing to abandon its internationalist affectations (read: pompous anti-Americanism) long enough to perform an exigent patriotic duty, but no thinking viewer will believe it could really happen. Here, however, WOOF feels obliged to defend the film’s writers who seem–at least dimly– to cognize this objection and deflect it by playing up Dan Skylark’s (Franco’s) monumental idiocy in tandem with his unbridled salacity. (We mentioned that Miss Caplan looks hot, right?)
In the first instance we are willing to suppose that Skylark may be too stupid to have absorbed even basic liberalism, 101 . In the second, he is vividly shown to be instantly smitten by the curvaceous Caplan (as CIA agent Lacey), under whose spell he manages to confect the distortedly feminist premise (which he enthusiastically shares with Rapoport) that Agent Lacy just might be making sense because “This is 2014, women are smart now!” If it seems difficult to believe that Rapoport (who is nowhere nearly as moronic as Skylark) doesn’t cite an article or two of liberal protocol and scotch the sordid proposal in the nub, we are at least tempted to suppose his affection for and professional depence on Skylark might prevent him from objecting. For that matter, the writers never give us a particularly good reason to believe Rapoport would be friends with a jackass like Skylark to begin with, let alone entangled with a him in the kind of slobbering, fashionably homoerotic histrionics depicted on screen; but even Hope and Crosby knew, you can’t have a buddy flick without buddies, and as the last two presidential elections serve to remind us, there’s no accounting for taste!
Even at this juncture, as our show-bizzy chums board their flight to destiny encumbered only by any ethical dubieties they may entertain, their professional equipment, and a foil-covered strip of deadly ricin poison to be transferred by handshake to the targeted tyrant, Skylark remains ebullient. He waxes euphoric over the kudos his one-on-one with Kim is bound to win him, the darker aspect of the meeting notwithstanding. He exclaims, “In ten years, Ron Howard’s going to make a movie out of this,” and then, just in case you’ve forgotten he’s a complete idiot, he waxes adulatory in his remembrance of Howards’s direction of “Frosty Nixon” by which he means Frost /Nixon, get it? Well, they can’t all be gems.
Rumblings from the East
Meanwhile, back in the real world, ( it will be occasionally important to maintain this distinction) , we have already noted that the real Kim Jong-un, over in the real Pyongyang, continued to receive real intelligence to the effect that Hollywood, and more specifically the Sony Corporation, was making a movie that portrayed his assassination by American journalists. As we also mentioned, North Korea responded by issuing a variety of angry threats. As the nastiness and vociferousness of these threats grew, Sony began get the wobblies, as Mrs. Thatcher would say, and postponed the release date of The Interview. But North Korea was not pacified by such panderings–nor are communists ever pacified by such concessions. Ever. We could have explained this to Sony, but they didn’t ask. And thus, as December drew closer, along with The Interview’s rescheduled Christmas release date, North Korea ramped up its campaign and began threatening “another 9-11” if the imperialist running dogs at Sony did not yank the film from distribution.
And if this were an Ayn Rand novel, some self-made zillionaire—some objectivist demigod astride the international mega-billion-dollar motion picture industry would at this point roll up his sleeves, thrust out his chin, and make the bold declaration that even if he had to bankrupt himself financing its completion and renting out the theatres in which to screen it all across America, The Interview would be released on schedule, and no two-bit tin-horned third-world collectivist pixie was going to stop it. But as we mention from time to time in these pages, most captains of industry (and almost every Hollywood mover and shaker) are too busy attending Democratic fund raisers and popping champagne corks with the liberal establishment to read much. So, in the real world, when Sony heard about the threats from North Korea, they postponed the release until Christmas. Randian Objectivism doesn’t crop up too often in the real world of high finance, sad to say.
At least Dan Sterling (who co-wrote the film with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg) was irate. “If they want to bomb somebody for their free speech,” he told reporters, “I would like to be at ground zero, because I don’t want to live in that kind of world.”
It doesn’t seem to have hit home with Mr. Sterling that most of the planet he inhabits is covered with nations whose leaders want to wipe out “free speech,” and who don’t mind a bit if Mr. Sterling or any other mouthy hooligan wants to be at ground zero—in fact, the more the merrier so far as they’re concerned. But it is precisely here that we, the reviewers, feel obligated to pause and clarify for our readers what in Messrs Rogen’s, Franco’s, Sterling’s and Goldberg’s little movie could have so horribly and simultaneously infuriated the Supreme Leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of (North) Korea, the First Secretary of the Workers Party of North Korea, the Chairman of the Central Military Commission, the Chairman of the National Defense Commission for North Korea, the Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army, and the head of North Korea’s politburo—all of whom happen to be Kim Jong-un.
The “friendly riot” paradigm
Long before the now-infamous Sony hacks took place, and in fact as early as September of 2014, enormous pressure was exerted on Director (and star) Seth Rogen to reduce the intensity of Kim’s death scene (yes, gentle readers, Kim dies in the movie, so if you didn’t know that–sorry–but you would have found out sooner or later anyhow). Anyway, it seems to be a peculiarity endemic to entertainment moguls that they believe the essence of an event portrayed on screen can be substantively altered by simply portraying less of it, or portraying it less graphically, and Sony’s American motion picture division obviously shares this unaccountable conviction.
Doubters would do well to examine Merle Miller’s hilariously instructive memoire, Only You, Dick Daring! The book recounts Millers adventures at NBC in the early ’60s after a TV producer reveals a “vision” for a weekly drama and hires Miller to flesh out the concept and write some scripts. In due course Miller is called on the carpet for a script in which a riot occurs. The producer tells him that sponsors won’t appreciate the riot because it casts the rural townsfolk to whom advertisements may be pitched in a bad light. Miller is told to get rid of the riot, but he is adamant: the riot is essential to the plot and cannot be removed. The producer ponders this for a moment and then snaps, “All right, but make it a friendly riot!” We digress in this regard because no better means exist (so far as we know) to characterize Sony’s bizarre obsession with de-emphasizing the climax of Rogen’s film. Surely the friendly-riot paradigm exemplifies the dialogue between Rogen and the studio as revealed in an almost endless procession of subsequently leaked emails in which Rogen accedes to a succession of demands from Sony to soften the dictator’s final moments:
Rogen emails, “We will make it less gory. There are currently four burn marks on his face. We will take out three of them, leaving only one. We reduce the flaming hair by 50%. The head explosion can’t be more obscured than it is because we honestly feel that if it’s any more obscured you won’t be able to tell its exploding and the joke won’t work. Do you think this will help?”
(And after further demands are made): “We will play with the color of the head chunks to try to make them less gross. Should we not take out the burning parts on his face if you don’t think that is his issue? We’d rather keep them. Let us know. Thanks. Seth.”
(And after much more haggling) “In shot #337 there is no face melting, less fire in the hair, fewer embers on the face, and the head explosion has been considerably obscured by the fire, as well as darkened to look less like flesh.”
Finally, after a seemingly interminable amount of additional quibbling during which Sony’s Japanese CEO (and grandest of all Sony panjandra), Kazuo Hirai, involved himself in ways that leave no doubt he is also not an Ayn Rand enthusiast, Rogen is finally able to email:
“This is it!!! We removed the fire from the hair and the entire secondary wave of head chunks. Please tell us this is over now. Thanks so much!! Seth.”
Over, Seth Rogen?? Pardon us a cruel chuckle!
WOOF knows (because we have awesome connections) that Sony’s anxieties were so great, even before a single file had been pinched by hackers, that Hollywood’s and Tokyo’s motion picture divisions planned at one point to placate Rogen by temporarily accepting his final cut even as extensive further modifications were discussed up to and including a complete revision of the picture’s climax in which Kim was spared assassination owing to a crisis of conscience on the part of Skylark and Rapoport. But organizations are habitually bovine, and for all it’s craven intentions, Sony could not remove enough head chunks or re-write climaxes quickly enough to mollify its tormentors. That North Korea might object to the principle of Kim Jong-un’s on-screen death per se rather than how the particulars of its depiction were arranged must have dawned on even the dimmest of Sony’s appeasers as their corporate ramparts were breached by a force whose magnitude exceeded even Kazuo Hirai’s greatest fears–and that guy survived Godzilla!
The Guardians of Peace attack!
On November 24th employees of the Culver City-based operations of Sony studios logged onto their computers and found their data completely gone. Nothing remained but a big, grinning, crimson skull and the words “Hacked by #GOP” (a group of hackers styling themselves the Guardians of Peace, as well as enjoying an obvious slap at the Republican Party). Even at this early stage the loss of secure data was shocking, but as days went by Sony became achingly aware that the hack had been far more extensive than initially feared. It had, in fact, been a clean sweep. On the 9th of December the “GOP” posted an online message demanding that Sony “Stop immediately showing the movie of terrorism which can break the regional peace and cause the War.” And at the same time, the Internet was flooded with embarrassing, costly, or personally sensitive material hacked from Sony’s corporate computer systems. This prompted a spate of disjointed spasms at Sony– defensive jerks and writhings of the sort one might expect from a tormented beast with no instinctual repertoire of counterattacks beyond the occasional, feckless lashing out devoid of any definable purpose. Among these random reflexes, we particularly enjoyed a magnificently sanguine statement to the press from Sony attorney David Boies, who denounced the Sony leaks (accurately enough) as “stolen information” and called on “all media outlets” to destroy any emails from the Sony hack that came into their possession. It was a game effort, all right, and a magnificent gesture on Boies part–but of course it fell on deaf ears. Sony had no institutional vocabulary for courage, it was rudderless in a sea of abuses.
On December 16th the hackers released a new threat. Avoid seeing The Interview on Christmas Day, they warned, adding, “how bitter fate those who seek fun in terror should be doomed to.” That was enough for America’s theatre owners, who vividly remembered the demise of The Dark Knight Rises after “the Batman shootings” of 2012. They began dropping the scheduled film in droves, making distribution impossible. At that point, even had Sony grown testes of steel, no option was available. The producers scrapped the The Interview, and for a while it seemed the film was destined for the darkest, most closely guarded vault since Howard Hughes bought up and locked away every print of his laughably stupid movie Jet Pilot after reading its terrible reviews…which for some reason surprised him.
The real villain exposed!
As everyone is now aware, the Sony hack represented something greater than a good joke on a major corporate entity– its scope and expertness were such that a wider threat to America’s corporate data bases and yes, to the very matrices of our highly computerized defense networks and related military systems could not be ignored. But the Sony hackers were more than techno terrorists of the first order, they were also adept at counter-forensic measures, and it was quickly obvious to experts that their trail was blurry and in many respects deceptive–possibly right down to the laughable English syntax that fit the image of some motley squad of dorky North Korean provincials, but seemed suspiciously inconsistent with the caliber of high-tech sophistication requisite to pulling off the “GOP” caper. Overnight, politicians on both sides of the aisle began to wax shrill in their demands that the Sony leaks be investigated and the culprits exposed and punished.
In the confines of the Oval Office these developments began to take on the appearance of one of those pesky crisis thingies– the kind that make golfing difficult and necessitate executive action, or at least the appearance of executive action. Fortunately, President Obama is a man who has learned from his time in office, and matured in his handling of such emergencies. The old Obama would have insisted he’d just learned about the Sony affair on the news, “the same as most of you!” and assured the press he was calling in his top people to bring him up to speed. Next he would have vowed to remain focused on the problem “like a laser” and sworn that he wouldn’t rest until he got to the bottom of it. And with any luck at all, he could avoid ever having to mention it again– but times have changed. The schlock that worked for the first six years of his presidency is not sufficient to pacify the nation in years seven and eight. Reporters–though rarely–sometimes ask pointed questions these days, and the stubbornly ineradicable renegades at FOX News remain a major irritant Then of course, there are the new media, unreliable allies at best, and damnable tea-baggers at worst! And even the president’s own pollsters are privately reporting that while he can still fool some of the people all of the time, the percentage of people whom he can fool all of the time is withering daily.
With these considerations in mind, one can easily envision the president convening an actual advisory group concerned not with the proper response to North Korea’s frantic protestations of guilt, (which lack plausibility on the one hand, could get ugly on the other hand, would not be readily resolvable by drones, and which in any case conflict with Obama’s deep rooted feelings of solidarity with socialist regimes standing up to Western imperialism) Fortunately,by the time he and his most trusted advisers had finished noodling this one out, a mere scowl aimed in the direction of North Korea (enough to satisfy the yahoos) was all that was required of Our President as he zeroed in on the real culprit on the scene– a villainous scapegoat that fit the Obaman metanarrative perfectly—albeit the goat in question was pretty much innocent– but as comrade Lenin liked to say (okay, even though he was quoting Maximilien Robespierre), if you want to make an omelet you have to break a few eggs, right? So America’s slow rappin’ preezy sauntered up to his newly programmed teleprompter and bluntly placed the blame where it belonged: Yes, on the shoulders of the Sony corporation–because—well– they were the nearest proximal capitalist entity and besides …the bad guy was Michael Lynton, Sony’s number one CEO in America, major democrat contributor, loyal Obama supporter, fresh road kill on the highway to The People’s Socialist Republic of Obamamerica, and the obvious weak-kneed reprobate at the heart of the entire disaster! That’s right, Sony’s Michael Lynton had failed the nation at this crucial hour, and Obama was not afraid to say so!
It was was ingenuous, really. The president’s statement merely grazed the NORKs without mentioning them by name, thus giving the impression to the unexacting audient that Obama had given the commies a piece of his mind –instead of a furtive high five—-even as he actually rained all his moral condemnation on Sony, and Lynton, Not only had Sony completely screwed the proverbial pooch in the president’s view, they had done the entire nation a disservice and set a “dangerous precedent” in pulling the film. Slow Rappin’ Preezy then warmed to his teleprompter sufficiently to kick things up a notch, switching to that particularly sonorous assortment of clipped tonalities intended to presage some especially statesmanshippy rhetoric. But as liberal egomaniacs will, whenever given the slightest provocation, Obama next launched into one of those wholly unconscious exercises in Freudian projection in which liberal critics recite their own worst behaviors and malefactions but attribute them to their opponents.
“We cannot have a society in which some dictators someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States,” Obama said. (Take that, Kim jong-un!) “Imagine what they start doing once they see a documentary that they don’t like or news reports that they don’t like.” Gosh, Mr. President, they would be acting like you, right? But Obama managed to drive these points quite a ways, and wax indignant about many an instant, real or imagined, in which some dictatorially-inclined power driver might take unfair control of events if not opposed by finer statesmen and brought to heel! And this, he made plain, was exactly the sort of tyranny that weaklings like poor Lynton and his dastardly corporation heads were guilty of caving into by allowing themselves to be coerced into pulling The Interview from theatres stateside! And in closing, the president served up one last, and particularly massive slice of bologna. He may in fact have been having one of his skeet-shooting moments when he saw fit to add,”You know, had they talked to me directly about this decision, I might have called the movie theater chains and distributors and asked them what that story was.” (NB: if the preceding statement strikes you as in any sense plausible, you would be well advised to stop reading this article right now—you really aren’t up to it!) Imagine, for instance,Obama urging various theatres to show some backbone and air The Interview–and even one violet incident occurring as a result! No presidential adviser of any stripe would have permitted such folly-it was all complete nonsense, but so, of ocurse, so was the president’s criticism of Lynton.
In response to his public humiliation. Lynton joined a lengthy procession of establishment liberals who, over the past seven years, have been cast blinking in disbelief beneath Obama’s political bus tires. Lynton protested, of course, and quite truthfully, that he had repeatedly attempted to talk to the president, but only got as far as discussing the problem with “a senior White House adviser, ” who in any case was not in the least critical of the theatre closings. Moreover, Lynton rather sensibly pointed out that Sony owns not a single theater in North America and has no control whatever over theatre managers who decide to cancel scheduled features. Obama blaming Lynton and Sony for pulling a film that no theater was willing to carry was remindful of Marshall McLuhan’s trenchant observation that America is a country that always beats up the peanut vender when its team loses. True, as the pilfered emails make plain, Sony was steeped in its own culture of appeasement and accommodation, but with the eagle eye of a man who prefers to shoot skeet on a flat trajectory, the president managed to damn them for the one thing they couldn’t help, and avoid entirely the subject of who masterminded the actual hacking.
Enter Little Kim
But let us now rejoin our heroes, Skylark and Rapoport (Rogen and Franco), first because this is, after all, a review of their movie, and second because they are the only two players in the entire farce, on or off screen, who retain a shred of integrity (apart from Sook–and we haven’t gotten to her yet)! Arriving at their hotel, the Americans are patted down by Kim’s security forces. One particularly alacritous guard ransacks their belongings and discovers the small packet of foil that contains the deadly strip of ricin. As instructed, the Americans explain that the substance is chewing gum, and to their great relief the guard nods approvingly—but relief turns to dismay as the guard pops the strip into his mouth and begins chewing appreciatively. Ricin is slow acting, so the tragic ramifications of the guard’s impulse are not immediately apparent, but Team Skylark has now lost its means of dispatching its intended prey. Their Korean welcomers are oblivious of any of this, of course, and the festivities continue.Our stalwarts are thus allowed to proceed with their scheduled meeting, and within moments Dear Leader, Kim Jong-un himself (magnificently interpreted by Randall Park), bounds into the room and launches into a fulsome display of fan worship, fawning over his American guests as though they are royalty. Skylark, naturally, is captivated by Kim’s worshipfulness and begins to feel his celebrity deeply. In no time they are exchanging back slaps and nudges like frat boys while Kim proceeds to show off his pad, which features every sort of posh amenity including liquor, drugs, available women, a basketball court, a huge collection of classic and current automobiles, and a tank, as in army tank. Those interested in sampling the level of wit that permeates The Interview may wish to examine this tidbit:
Kim (gesturing at the tank): “It was a gift to my father from Stalin!”
Skylark (nodding enthusiastically): “Ah! In my country, it’s pronounced Stallone!”
Kim Jong-un must die!
Are we still good? If so, be advised: there ensues an unbridled episode of guy bonding including a rollicksome ride in the tank during which the Americans are shown how to swivel the turret, fire the cannon, and so forth. As their bro-mance intensifies, Kim and Skylark acknowledge their mutual adoration of, among other westerly delights, Katy Perry. When Skylark sings Perry’s hit tune “Firework” to Kim, the tyrant smiles in supernal transport, and tears stream down his cherubic cheeks. Suffice it that by the time our heroes return to their hotel, Skylark is happy to have lost the ricin and declares himself completely persuaded that Kim Jong-un is a wonderful dude, a misunderstood huggie bear, a benefactor to his people, and of course, a devoted fan of Skylark Tonight. Rapoport, to the contrary, has seen through the little dictator’s façade and contacted the CIA, who have scheduled delivery of a substitute ricin strip to be dropped from a drone hovering outside the boys’ hotel.
In a scene that would grace any of Crosby’s and Hope’s “Road” Pictures, Rapoport no sooner steals his way out of the hotel to retrieve the deadly air drop than he is confronted by a gigantic, growling tiger. Bob Hope, of course, would have monologued hilariously to the tiger, but as we believe we have made plain by now, those days are gone. Rogen, by contrast, freezes in fatalistic horror as the beast coils to spring, but fortunately, at that moment, thud! The tiger is knocked out cold by the ricin container dropped from the CIA’s drone. Rogen (Rapoport) grabs the phallic cylinder in which the ricin was dropped and –in one of those moments of unparalleled comic genius so familiar to Rogen’s and Franco’s admirers, realizes that he has no means of concealing it other than by shoving it where the proverbial moon don’t shine. Imagine the ensuing merriment as he waddles back to his room! And as if this weren’t enough for any one movie, two more plot wrinkles materialize!
First, Kim’s sexy female security guard, Sook, (played by Diane Bang who does more for a communist uniform than anyone since Janet Leigh in Howard Hughes’s Golden Turkey Jet Pilot. which for some strange reason we have now mentioned twice in this article) is hot on the trail of the Americans and smells a rat. But before she can piece together the team’s real mission, she winds up in the sheets with Rapoport, and finds herself cocooperatively smitten. The other twist is easier to see coming. Danny Skylark has been crazy about his halfpint host since their first meeting, and he has now reached a level of unalloyed admiration for Kim Jong-un that makes Dennis Rodman look like a pouty cynic. Skylark is therefore no longer willing to proceed with the CIA plan and determines, rather, to show the world that Kim Jong-un is really a prince among men. He goes so far as to thwart an early effort by Rapoport to slip Kim the ricin-infected handshake.
But Sook, the comely commie infatuated with Rapoport , turns out to be a leader of a secret anti-Kim cell within the government,and by various machinations she arranges for Skylark to discover that all the happy well-fed Korean citizens he’s been meeting are actors, and the fully stocked supermarkets are merely props lined with fake foods and packages. Skylark also manages to overhear Kim in conference with his military high command where the Supreme Leader reveals himself to be a killer at heart, spitting out pathological hatred for the west while cold-bloodedly conniving to reduce California to radioactive dust. Even Skylark agrees at this juncture– the interview will proceed as planned, the ricin will be administered by handshake, and no further delays or ethical qualms will be permitted because….Kim Jong-un must die!
The next day a fully committed Dan Skylark marches into his sit-down interview with the still unsuspecting and jovial Kim Jong-un and wastes not a moment delivering the ricin-infected handshake. The pleasantries exchchanged, the promised interview (which, however improbably, is being broadcast live) proceeds as scheduled, and, initially, as expected. At first it all seems familiarly bland; the back slapping, joke cracking, glad-handing Danny and his opening round of creampuff questions have the podgy archon feeling relaxed and validated. Suddenly though, Skylark goes totally Mike Wallace on his startled interviewee, boring in with demands about why Kim won’t feed his people; why he won’t allow freedom in his country, why he won’t allow a free press. In the adjacent control room, Kim’s minions rush to kill the broadcast, but the prepossessing Sook is in charge of security, and she intercedes. The show must go on, she orders, and the interview proceeds. Danny Skylark is functioning as a real journalist at last, and he senses the righteousness of it even as Kim squirms and stammers in confusion. It is a tribute to Randall Park’s portrayal that Kim is plausible in all his various personae–from bodacious party boy to sensitive aesthetician. From nationalist folk hero to reptilian mass murderer. It is a tribute to Park that we hate him when he plays the malevolent sociopath and feel sorry for him when his chummy tete-a-tete with Skylark is shattered by betrayal. It is a sad comment that no such kudos can be offered anyone else in this sleeper gone viral, even the enigmatic Sook, but bear with us, gentle readers, as we shift our sights briefly to the havoc here at home that a very real Kim jong-un is charged with creating.
Back in America, and what currently passes for reality here, and following the hacks and the serial release of slues of embarrassing data by the “GOP,” (Guardians of Peace, remember?) the real FBI announces (with that dutiful predictability it seems beset by since hitching its organizational reputation to Obama’s wagon) “the North Korean government is responsible for these actions,” following which President Obama went so far as to declare that he was “considering a proportionate response,” possibly even going so far as “reviewing whether to put North Korea back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism,” which of course will fizzle into nothingness, and which, in typical fashion, preceded Obama jumping aboard his jet for his latest vacation in Hawaii. North Korea evinced its disapproval of the president’s critique by threatening attacks on “the White House, the Pentagon and the whole U.S. mainland.” The official Korean [read: North Korean] Central News Agency proclaimed: “The army and people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are fully ready to stand in confrontation with the U.S. in all war spaces including cyber warfare space to blow up those citadels,” adding that North Korea’s intelligence networks had amassed “clear evidence” that the U.S. government was duplicitous in producing the problematic film. As precedent, Kim’s government could obviously have sited Barrack Obama’s lengthy history of presidential endeavors resulting in dark comedy, but they are not a mirthful lot, the NORKs, and such opportunities consequently elude them.
Still, the presidential threat, however vapid, baffled some Obama watchers by virtue of its very issuance. What bestirred the best-known Casper Milquetoast in the history of the American presidency to wax suddenly snappish over a corporate espionage scheme when no provocation by any tyrant or band of international ruffians had, until that moment, inspired him to any action more belligerent than shoving the hapless Jen Psaki before the cameras brandishing her latest inane hashtag?
The answer is: Hollywood, of course—that storied bastion of ultra left-wing dementia, that vast array of gaping coffers pouring forth uninterrupted streams of treasure into Democratic war chests—that citadel of egotists whose narcissism is refined beyond any thought of modifying their own excesses in conformity with their unctuous preachments to the common folk and therefore tilt automatically to the socialist cause. Where but in Hollywood, after all, can a 20-something clam brain rocket to international fame pretending to be someone he isn’t while uttering words someone else wrote for him? And on what other basis than movie stardom might such a nincompoop expect to testify before congress or perhaps the UN on the sanctity of women’s vaginas, or the onrushing destruction presaged by “climate change,” and have his blatherings accorded something approaching solemnity? And this time it was Hollywood that took a hit—not some ambassador and his crew in Benghazi or a bunch of Tea Party non-profits or the suckers who bought the Obamacare deception. Okay, Sony is a Japanese-based corporation, but Hollywood, the metonymy, was threatened and exposed by the hackers.
Speaking of race jokes and James Bond…
From a political standpoint, once one sets aside the considerable technical proficiency it bespoke, the most dangerous aspect of the Sony hacks was the damage to Hollywood’s image as a wonderland of progressive purity. Not only was a long list of glitzy celebrities rendered human, all too human, by having their often politically-incorrect viewpoints and e-blatherings exposed, but worse than that, the production elites who make and break those celebrities and who account for the lion’s share of political fund-raising and donations supportive of the Liberal Left were also hacked and hung out to dry. From these leaks it became obvious that when Hollywood’s top producers, CEOs and entertainment executives weren’t bad-mouthing their stables of stars, they were often busy exchanging sentiments worthy of Archie Bunker. This may not have interested John Q. Public nearly so much as how neurotically riven with self doubt George Clooney is, or whether Adam Sandler is a as detestable as his everyone at Sony clearly deems him. If you’re a Democrat Party Strategist, the production sector is the real concern because the moguls are the ones who contribute the mega-bucks to your candidates, and the ones whom you had better appear to be looking out for in return.
Scott Rudin and Sony co-chairperson Amy Pascal (both deeply involved with The Interview) emailed jokes back and forth about President Obama’s races shortly before attending a breakfast with President Obama hosted by DreamWorks Animation CEO and major Democratic donor Jeffrey Katzenberg. They have since apologized, of course, and we assume all is forgiven…although anotther leaked email complained that Denzel Washington’s film The Equalizer failed to earn sufficient profits internationally because “Blacks can’t fill theatres outside the U.S..” because, as the exec who authored the opinion explained, “The international motion picture audience is racist.” Maybe so, but The Equalizer managed to gross $191 million in box office receipts outside of the United States. ..so wow, how much more would it have earned if they’d stuck with Edward Woodward?
And speaking of race jokes and James Bond, we are not kidding when we tell you that a very highly paid Sony Entertainment executive’s choice to replace Daniel Craig as 007 is none other than Idris Elba, who previously appeared as Nelson Mandela in Long Walk to Freedom. That’s right, Sony co-chairperson Amy Pascal advanced in all sincerity the proposition that Mr. Elba “should be the next Bond.” Pascal’s idea of casting a Black guy to play the world’s most famous Scotsman is, of course, to be commended insofar as it courageously flouts the above-posited international race barrier, though it is certain to disappoint anyone clinging to some vestige of Ian Fleming’s original vision, as well as those of us in the WOOF cave who were holding out for Lucy Liu.
Scott Rudin, meanwhile, complained that Angelina Jolie was “seriously out of her mind,” and called her a “minimally talented brat.” Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, The Social Network) described Leonardo DiCaprio as “horrible” while producer Mark Gorden preferred to think of him as “Actually despicable.” Sorkin next argued that Hollywood’s leading ladies experience “nothing close to the degree of difficulty” faced by leading men. This sort of attitude at Sony may account for the hacked revelation that female stars like Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams of American Hustle, received a much smaller share of profits from their films than their male counterparts, despite receiving equal billing. But enough of this tinsel town flapdoodle, gentle readers, let us return to fictional North Koriea, where our fictional heroes are doing their damndest for Uncle Sam and, of course, journalistic immortality!
The famous final scene…
So, back in imaginary North Korea, we return to Kim Jong-un (Randall Park), slowly melting down,( albeit only figuratively at this juncture) beneath a fusilade of hard-ball interrogatives from his erstwhile frat buddy, Skylark. Efforts to close down the broadcast have been thwarted by the commanding presence of Sook (Diana Bang), who has the uniform and braid to keep the show up and running, to say nothing of how impressively the uniform is stuffed. But the palace guard is increasingly frantic to curtail the transmission of what they now fully sense is a catastrophic misadventure in western-style journalism run wildly off the tracks and threatening the very heart of Kim Jong-un’s workers’ paradise. Aware that her dominance of the control room is fast eroding, Sook amplifies her authority by grabbing an RFD Soviet light machine gun and emptying it in the direction of everyone seeking admittance. She then leads the Americans over the resultant bodies and out of the palace where they make a break for freedom, though hotly pursued by irate units of the North Korean military.
Our boys’ chances seem slim indeed until Skylark gets the bright idea of escaping in the tank from Kim’s play room–which, you will recall, Kim taught him to operate during their male bonding romp. This throws the NORK’s command structure into disarray given the uncertain conditions and our heroes’ choice of Stalin’s tank as a getaway vehicle. (And the longstanding Hollywood tradition that you can almost always escape from anything if you have some sort of tank–a mythologem that reaches far back into the history of film, conjuring such classic imagery as the first known space-tank chase from 1952’s Radar Men from the Moon!) Things are looking hopeful when the sky to the south is darkened by a heavily-armed helicopter and not just any heavily armed helicopter, Wooketeers! Kim Jong -un himself has taken command of this chopper and he is in hot pursuit of the meddlesome media team…boiling for vengeance and prepared to blast them with a theatre nuke, if necessary, to repay their treason (And at this point, consider, he doesn’t even know he’s been ricin-ized)! Things are getting pretty tense inside the targeted tank, when Franco realizes he’s been taught to operate the gun. With the redoubtable Sook shouting instructions and only seconds to spare, our Skylark finds his inner Rambo, rises to the event, slams home a round and pulls the trigger! The shot from the tank beat’s the helicopter’s missile launch by a nanosecond, but these elsapse in Peckinpah-esque slow motion we watch the shell pass through the air, pierce the helicopter’s hull, and explode, all too a particularly melancholy rendering of Katy Perry’s Firefly during which we watch Kim engulfed in a fiery cocoon of destruction. To Randall Parks’s credit, even as his face is thus blurred, burned, contorted, melted, and blazes away in fiery chunks, he manages to exhibit of a full range of authentic and emotionally affecting bathos before–well–before his head explodes. And that’s it, gentle readers–the Dear Leader is dead–one might even say dead before his time, the ricin never got a chance to kick in. One feels a twinge of loss at Kim’s immolation, and that, one feels obliged to concede, approaches art.
Dismounting their tank, our heroes choose different paths in parting. Our dragon lady, Sook, determines to stay behind to help shape the New North Korea, and whereas Skylark and Rapoport await extraction by the CIA. Roll the credits, but as we do, let us ponder the ramifications of all that has transpired–accidental, as well as intended.
The agony and the irony:
In conclusion, Woofeteers, let us contemplate several ironies! First, as we have mentioned already, the most aggressive exertions on the part of the North Korean government to keep this utterly unremarkable film from ever seeing the light of day ramified in its becoming the most talked about and sought after film in recent history. Because of the threats and the hacks, and the international clamoring to see the film released for viewing,, Kim Jong- Un is now the mosts widely and variously assassinated ruler in world history.His head has caught fire and exploded to greater and lesser degrees and under more intensive and greater international visibility than any other modern political leader, if you count fictional death. Surely his assassination, or rather its portrayal on celluloid, has garnered more press coverage than any other such depiction since the Zapruder film, which was, of course, tragically non-fictional. And because Rogen was put to work effectuating umpteen diverse treatments of Kim’s melting and exploding head, submitting each version for inspection by the niddering invertebrates of Sony’s high command, almost every version is now viewable somewhere online, awaiting perusal by anyone with a PC—although true to our purity pledge, the authors of this review have steadfastly eschewed them all! Meantime, Sony is frantically battling to take down as many of the pirated scenes as possible, while in a wondrous display of international cooperation the NORKs are equally committed to eliminating these sites, albeit for conspicuously different reasons. Still, a chorus of Kumbaya seems in order.
“A very damning story…”
But from a more artistic and meaningful standpoint, the greatest irony is certainly the artistic radiance which now encompasses Director Seth Rogen, who stood alone against Sony Studios in his valiant fight to retain the death scene he envisioned for his film, at one point even exploding, (you’ll forgive the expression) “This is now a story of Americans changing their movie to make North Koreans happy, and that is a very damning story.” Yes, despite being just another leftist conformist hack, another show-biz toadie to the Hollywood socialist worldview throughout his career in pictures, even the likes of Seth Rogen could find his inner Wolverine at such a moment– and place himself, however absurdly, in that pantheon of motion picture directors who have fought for their art against the depredations of the studio power structures. Men like Sam Peckinpah, and Orson Welles . And yes, dear readers, when sophomore cinema classes in our nation’s universities speak in hushed tones of those cinematic lions who fought for their art against all odds, let Seth Rogen’s name be murmured also! For while we keep Seth’s name in our hearts, and his dream on our lips, moviegoers everywhere will be able to rest at night in the certainty that across the nation and around the world–wherever filmmaking is prized by men and women whose hearts beat free– Kim Jung-un’s head is somewhere, even then, exploding in a fiery multiplicity of presentations the sum of which fills the creative universe with the brightness of a thousand suns! (Or, uns) But you get the picture!
Yes, it’s ANOTHER of WOOF’s “boiler-plate” LITERARY recommendations!
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