About the most predictable thing to happen today outside the sun rising in the east, more birds flying south for the winter and Jay Cutler being benched was Sony’s decision to pull the release of Seth Rogen’s The Interview. Soon thereafter, CNN’s Jake Tapper–who has an underrated sense of dry humor–tweeted out the following:
We are all @Sethrogen
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) December 17, 2014
So Rogen becomes a living martyr thanks to terror threats from the North Korea Geek Squad really winning here. Sure… the North Koreans threaten the U.S. like they’re on a 24-second clock, and our leaders, Republican and Democratic alike, usually take the constant hyperbole with a grain of salt. But to Sony, the threats somehow were something to really be reckoned with. Moving forward, as Judd Apatow correctly noted, this decision sets a horrible precedent for any movie containing controversial content.
Lost in all of this, of course, was just how easy it was for Sony to capitulate here. So before you say the studio simply made this move for safety reasons and to protect moviegoers across the country from all of those imaginary North Korean terror cells set to become active across the country, ask yourself this: if the movie was really going to be a slam-dunk for the studio, would Sony have surrendered this quickly? Note: Before we go on, let this point be clear: Regardless of whether the movie is any good or not, it must be released out of free speech and free market principles alone. Hostile and hyperbolic foreign governments with the worst human rights record on the planet cannot dictate how business is done here. Period.
So since we may never get to see The Interview, let’s see what the critics were saying about it via advance screenings before the plug was pulled, shall we? In total, Rotten Tomatoes features 15 reviews on its website, including those from Variety, the Hollywood Reporter and USA Today.
Average score on a scale of 1-100? 53. Now compare that number to these Rogen instant-classics:
Knocked Up: 90
This is the End: 83
Even the relatively disappointing Neighbors–Rogen’s most recent effort–generated a 73 rating, or 20 points higher than The Interview. Here’s some reviews to sample below:
Variety: “About as funny as a communist food shortage, and just as protracted.”
TheWrap: “While The Interview never slacks in its mission to tell jokes, it’s such a messy and meandering movie that it never quite lands as a satire of politics or the media or anything else.”
Newsday: “Like their affable, ignorant characters, Rogen and Franco seem in way over their heads with “The Interview.'”
USA Today: “The Interview fails to live up to the hype, floundering as a rowdy comedy as it grows duller by the minute.”
Hollywood Reporter: “The Interview has the comic batting average of a mediocre-to-average Saturday Night Live sketch…”
But believe or not, the most scathing review comes from within Sony itself, courtesy of yet another hacked email. This time, the candor comes from U.K. Sony Pictures exec Peter Taylor to president of Sony Pictures Releasing International Steven O’Dell:
The unanimous point of view here is that this is another misfire from the pairing [of Rogen and Franco]. Apart from one or two moments where the comedy worked (the Eminem piece was excellent), it remained desperately unfunny and repetitive and once again, for the last 20 minutes, stopped being a comedy altogether, with a level of realistic violence that would be shocking in a horror movie. James Franco proves once again that irritation is his strong suit, which is a shame because the character could have been appealing and funny out of his hands.
But besides that…
Now please also note: The movie wouldn’t need to be a critical success to be a box office success. It’s all about the Adam Sandler rule: If it resonates with the right crowd, the movie makes $100M without breaking a sweat regardless of what the scribes say. Then again, the bar has been set for Rogen so high now via the aforementioned resume, that if word spread the movie is as disappointing as some critics say, maybe pulling the plug on such a hyped flick becomes a decision made much easier than if Sony had the next Ghostbusters on its hands.
At least for now, The Interview will go down as the most memorable movie of the year… all without seeing the light of day. Sony claims it’s all in the name of public safety. And if this result was posted on an ESPN ticker, it would read: North Korea Geek Squad 1, Sony USA 0.
But this movie–via external critics and some internal ones as well–appears to be a bomb regardless of any real bombs that almost certainly wouldn’t have gone off.
>>Follow Joe Concha on Twitter @JoeConchaTV
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