Seth Rogen has made some really good movies and a few that were in need of improvement. Ditto for James Franco. But none of their movies has had the global impact that their film “The Interview” will have … and it doesn’t even open until October.
I’m not talking about a huge payday for them nor for the studio. This is bigger than winning Oscars. North Korea has threatened the United States with war if the movie opens. But I’m pretty sure they’re bluffing.
The premise of the movie is simple enough. Two talk-show hosts (played by Rogen and Franco) get a chance to interview North Korean President Kim Jong-un (played by Randall Park), and the U.S. government recruits them to kill Kim. If you know anything about journalists (even talk-show hosts), the U.S. government and/or the nature of the North Korean regime, this is clearly a satire bordering on absurdism.
However, if there is one thing that dictatorships lack, it’s a sense of humor. Kim Myong-chol, executive director of The Centre for North Korea-U.S. Peace, told British newspaper The Telegraph, “There is a special irony in this storyline as it shows the desperation of the US government and American society. A film about the assassination of a foreign leader mirrors what the US has done in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Ukraine. And let us not forget who killed [President John F.] Kennedy — Americans. In fact, President [Barack] Obama should be careful in case the U.S. military wants to kill him as well.”
He left out Guatemala, Iran, South Vietnam and Chile. Lighten the hell up, Myong-chol. It’s a movie. It’s not meant to be taken seriously.
But it isn’t just Myong-chol. North Korea’s official KCNA news agency has called the film a “wanton act of terror.” Now, that’s funny. Seth Rogen isn’t Wes Craven by a long shot. Of course, as a survivor of Reagan’s America and Thatcher’s Britain, mere films don’t scare me — I’ve coughed up scarier stuff than “Paranormal Activity.”
Presuming that the translation should have been “wanton act of terrorism,” we still have to chuckle. The closest we’ve ever come to film as terrorism was “Gigli” or perhaps “The Love Guru.” Not even Tyler Perry’s “Madea” franchise can be considered terrorism.
In addition, a North Korean foreign ministry spokesman told the media that the film had sparked “a gust of hatred and rage” throughout North Korean society. I myself would be surprised if the electricity were on long enough in the country to show the film so that such a gust might arise. And I’m pretty sure there isn’t a dubbed or subtitled version yet — hell, the guys who sell bootleg videos in Times Square don’t have copies yet.
Moreover, KCNA stated that the Pyongyang government has promised a “merciless response” unless the U.S. bans the film. That sounds effing serious, doesn’t it? A nuclear power promising that kind of reaction should send property prices in east Asia plummeting.
But let’s take a look at North Korea’s track record of empty threats. In 1994, a North Korean negotiator promised to turn Seoul, South Korea, into a “sea of fire.” Last I looked, Seoul is fine. In 2002, when George W. Bush labeled it part of his “axis of evil,” the North Korean regime promised to “mercilessly wipe out the aggressors.” Mr. Bush is painting pretty pictures in Texas. And last June, North Korea aimed artillery at seven South Korean media groups vowing a “merciless sacred war.” More bluff and bluster.
I am pretty confident that the North Koreans are bluffing again. I mean after all, “Team America: World Police” was filmed in 2004 and that ragged on Kim Jong-il (the current dictator’s daddy) for the entire movie. And what did North Korea do? Nothing, unless you count the country’s first nuclear test in 2006 as a response. I’m pretty sure the North Koreans would have tested that whether the “South Park” boys made their little film or not.
All the same, it’s safer for everyone if the film’s a success. If it bombs, there’s no telling how North Korea will react.
Watch the trailer:
Jeff Myhre is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.