Let me start off by saying, I did not go into this film expecting “Dr. Strangelove” in terms of a political comedy. It was created by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the two who created “Superbad,” “Pineapple Express” and “This Is The End.” So my expectations were more toward a plethora of fart jokes, drug references and grown men behaving like 16-year-olds.
And on that end, it did not disappoint. In fact, it was overwhelmingly present throughout the film. At times, painfully so.
Here is the basic premise: Rogen plays Aaron Rapaport, who is a producer of a tabloid talk show starring Dave Skylark (James Franco). After meeting an old friend at a party who works for “60 Minutes” and clearly doesn’t respect what he does, Rapaport decides he wants to up the level of legitimacy of his and Skylark’s show from tabloid to serious journalism. So they arrange to have Slylark interview North Korean President Kim Jong Un, who is a fan of their program.
Then the CIA steps in and wants the two to poison Un, because he has nuclear missiles? To be honest, the rational for killing North Korea’s president is pretty hazy beyond a now someone can do it because they are in the same room as Un scenario. I could have missed something there. Also not really shown, nor explained, was any training the two receive in order to take out a world leader beyond the poisoning him part.
Side note, Lizzy Caplan is pretty funny in her role as Agent Lacey, who tricks Skylark into the assassination plot. Again, not high-brow humor.
It was not a big surprise that Skylark (a bumbling goofball) hits it off with Kim Jong Un (played by Randall Park). They share a love of margaritas, Katy Perry, basketball and budding bro’mance becomes full bloom. Until Skylark realizes Un isn’t exactly the bro he seems to be.
I will not spoil it with all the details. It was a fine crude comedy, though probably just a one-time viewing for me. But the whole situation in the lead up to this release was what made this otherwise unremarkable film something that got many people to watch.
First, there was the whole Sony being bullied into not showing this angle. Especially with the hacking into their computers and the release of private information from employees. Because such actions harmed more than the heads of the company, the release of that information harmed lower-rung employees too. So it felt like a lot of people watched it to spite the hackers allegedly from North Korea and the North Korean government itself for being allegedly behind such an action.
The whole story was so insane, almost the action of a comically very insecure Bond villain, that it piqued my interest and so it was some of that plus me and my wife being kind of bored on Christmas Eve night that got us to watch. Full disclosure, she did not find it great.
Second, this was also the first time that a major box office release was screened in some theaters and into people’s homes via streaming services on it’s opening day. That was unprecedented. This was not a straight-to-DVD film, this was a big budget movie. I personally enjoyed watching it at home as I was allowed to pause the film when I needed a short break and I didn’t have to hear other people chatting away during the film. Not that I dislike going to the theater, I just probably wouldn’t go to the theater to watch a movie like this.
And that raises some questions: Will Movie companies start releasing some of their non-blockbuster films in this fashion to get a wider audience? Was this a one time thing due to circumstances? We now know that a blockbuster film can be screened at home and the theaters, so will that change some of the thinking at the studios?
Who knows for now. At least the film wasn’t completely horrible. It was only $6 for a 24-hour rental.