Op-Ed: On Feel Good Humor, Comedic Responsibility, and ‘The Interview’

Written by Jonathan Lee-Rey on January 5th, 2015

James Franco and Seth Rogen in The Interview (Yahoo! Images)

Before I begin, let the record state that I’ve enjoyed the Rogen-Franco pairing since its inception on Freaks and Geeks and my thoughts on this movie do not change the fact that I think they’re funny people who know how to make comedy.

Also, this review has spoilers. But it’s a comedy film. You’re only lying to yourself if you say you’re watching it “for the plot.”

And with that…

My thoughts on The Interview 
or
(Jonathan, You’re Stupid for Thinking Your Opinion Matters)

Overall, “The Interview” is an okay comedy film. There’s nothing groundbreaking about it. I had a couple of good laughs and I walked away feeling relatively satisfied for what I was expecting. (Which going in, wasn’t much. Anything with this much hype surrounding it, has the deck stacked against them. #HalfLife3 #RIPDukeNukem). The end of the film has a pretty satisfying callback (for anyone paying attention) and I appreciated some of the smaller details within the film that make the world more full and nuanced, such as the relatively young drone operator having a “Vivid” video partially visible in one of his monitors.

In terms of disappointments, there are many. The film uses a lot of comedic tropes. You’ve got the straight man/idiot pairing, a couple off-color jokes about Asians thrown in here and there, people getting shot in the dick, and people sticking stuff up their ass. Because as anyone who’s been to comedy school knows, that material always kills. #KAHMEDY. In addition, every character is pretty much a one-dimensional archetype and as a result, the film has a predictable story.

Now, even though I have a high bar of what can offend me, the most politically-correct person in America and I could agree that this movie is nowhere near offensive enough to start a war with North Korea over. Sure, it can be a little insensitive at times, but with the premise being James Franco and Seth Rogen go to North Korea, one should expect that style of comedy to come with it.

However, because a war (or rather several theater bombings) did almost break out because of a fucking dumb comedy, I think it’s important for me to address the question: Is it okay to produce material that can be deemed this offensive?

Yes.

Material should not be off-limits because it’s too risqué or because some people may find it offensive. You’re never going to please everyone in the world, and sometimes it’s important to say what everyone else isn’t saying. But, there should be a sort of sensitivity with the material and it should be used to make a point—besides just for shock-value.

Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with shock humor, but it’s just too easy as a comedic move. There should be layers to that shock humor to justify the shock. Unfortunately, The Interview does not deliver that extra layer. When approaching the material, the creative team clearly came from a “wouldn’t it be funny if” as opposed to a “isn’t funny that” perspective, which ultimately led to such a basic story—one that could easily result in an audience’s last dying image be Seth Rogen shoving a large phallic object up his ass.

The Interview is a feel good comedy, which means that everyone was supposed to sit down in the theaters on Christmas Day and share a couple laughs with the family. And, for a couple moments, Dad can forget that the bills are due on the first and be happy knowing that Jimmy is really happy that he got an Xbox One for Christmas. But now that the kids are home for break, the heating bill has gone up, and he just took out a second mortgage on the house to pay for Sally’s tuition, and that meant he had to fudge some of the numbers on his tax returns. So, he’s hoping to God no one audits him or his life will be in utter shambles and all he wants to do is have Seth Rogen’s adorable laugh melt away the pain.

But see, when heated topics like North Korea are the backbone of the film, it can’t be a feel good comedy. I understand that having a serious moment in a comedy film would be troubling for poor ol’ Feel-Good-Dad. However, it could have helped justify the material for the rest of us.

Instead of using the discovery of the fake grocery store as the plot device for Dave’s (Franco) major revelation that Kim Jong-Un is actually an evil tyrant, he could have ran into the chubby waving kid he saw on the way to Kim’s compound. That would have been an opportunity for the child to show him how the North Korean people actually live, making a powerful impression on the audience and making Kim’s death that much more rewarding rather than Dave screaming “Liar!” at a portrait of Kim with a fake grapefruit in each hand.

That being said, I do think it’s an important film you should watch—or, at the very least, you should agree with Sony’s choice to release the film to show your support for our right of free speech. Since we’ve been fortunate enough to live in America, we have the right to say and publish whatever idea comes out of our brain as long as we have the money and live with whatever consequences may result. However, do I think you should pay to watch this film?

Absolutely not.

Yeah, I know. The film is only 5 dollars to stream. However, you should use your holiday cash hard-earned dollars to fund the bigger battles of free speech (i.e. Net Neutrality) instead of an okay comedy film.

So go ahead and torrent it. It’s easy. Reddit knows all (top comment; you’re welcome). Feel good that you don’t have to pay for anything and can watch a silly comedy in the comfort of your house while eating your holiday leftovers and think America is pretty great isn’t it? And Feel-Good-Dad can giggle like a little schoolgirl when he hears Seth Rogen’s laugh and tear up when he remembers how big Jimmy’s smile was when Jimmy tore up the wrapping paper to reveal the bright green words Xbox One on the box and for the first time in 15 years he heard him say “I love you.” Because this is AMERICA.

And we are number one.

Grade: C

Jonathan Lee-Rey ’15, is a Theater/Psychology double major, a member of Skidomedy, and co-creator of Rey and Lemay. He hopes to graduate this May, leave the Skidmore bubble, and begin life in the cruel real world.

 

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