Warning: This story contains spoilers for "The Interview" (but it's not that great anyway).
When news broke Wednesday morning that "The Interview"starting at 10 a.m. PT, I dragged my Macbook Air into the kitchen so that, in addition to watching my baby and sweating over the stove cooking Christmas Eve spaghetti (yeah, it's a family tradition), I could see whether the controversial movie is even worth watching. You're welcome, readers.
Sony Pictures on Wednesday officially made "The Interview" available to stream on YouTube Movies, Google Play, Xbox and a dedicated Sony-built website, Seetheinterview.com. Now anyone who wants to see what all the fuss was about can do so from the comfort of their home -- for $6 to rent or $15 to buy.
Unless you're living under a Christmas tree tangled in ribbons, you know the comedy is believed to be the impetus for a massive hack that led to the exposure of thousands of private Sony e-mails and documents. Following the hack, threats made against any movie theaters that would play the film convinced the major chains to pull out, leading Sony to initially scrap its planned release of "The Interview." But widespread criticism, notably from President Barack Obama and actor George Clooney, convinced Sony Pictures to.
The film is playing in three theaters in Minneapolis, near where I live, but I decided to stream it through Google Play so I didn't have to wait a whole 24 hours to see James Franco and Seth Rogen tasked by the CIA with assassinating North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. I thought it'd be funny to say I streamed the movie through Google on my Apple device, but also, I've had much better luck renting movies on Google Play than some of the alternative services out there. I rented "The Interview" in a matter of seconds and started streaming it in HD with no problems.
I have a pretty quick data connection, with download speeds of 50Mbps, and the streaming process went off smoothly as expected. Mileage will likely vary based on your Internet connection, though we anticipate that your experience streaming "The Interview" will be comparable to what you're used to when streaming Netflix or YouTube videos.
Before the movie even came out, sites like the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) and Rotten Tomatoes were boosted the rankings for "The Interview" in an act of protest against the original cancellation. As a result, "The Interview" currently ranks as the best movie of all time on IMDb, with a perfect 10 out of 10 score that puts it above the likes of "The Shawshank Redemption," "The Godfather" and "Citizen Kane."
Just a few minutes in, it's clear that "The Interview" will not go down in cinematic history as one of finest films ever made. (The Wall Street Journal review calls it a "misguided missile," and I agree.)
A third of the way through, there are laughs here and there, and a few points where the movie really nails the absurdity of North Korea's propaganda-driven culture, but there are far more over-the-top scenes that are either just too grotesque to be funny or try too hard to be funny and end up just falling flat. When North Korea calls Rogen's character back about the interview, for example, he can't seem to stop making a "me so solly" joke long enough to hold a serious conversation.
Another over-the-top scene: the exchange between Rogen's and Franco's characters and the CIA while the agency is delivering another poison-laden package to the duo in North Korea. "I'm not sticking this in my butt," Rogen says. After several minutes of butt jokes, he finally complies for the greater good.
And oh hey, a Jewish joke. "Don't shake that hand," Franco's character tells Kim Jong-un. "Aaron's a Jew."
See: it's no "Citizen Kane."
The film is decidedly mediocre, with a mediocre plot and mediocre attempts to be funny. The only reason "The Interview" is potentially worth watching is to see what all the brouhaha was about and learn what would drive a group sympathetic (or with direct ties) to North Korea to try to stop Sony Pictures from releasing it to the public. Or, if you really like endless jokes about male private parts.
The one real saving grace of "The Interview" is Randall Park's portrayal of Kim Jong-un. The only criticism I can levy is that he makes Jong-un too likeable, portraying him as just another cool guy who loves basketball and Katy Perry.
Here in Minnesota, my family has started to arrive for Christmas and my baby is up from his nap. And honestly, arguing with my father-in-law about the state of US health care seems more fun than finishing the rest of "The Interview." But I will do it. I will struggle through the rest of this movie. Check back shortly for my final impressions.
Update, 11:50 a.m. PT: Well, I've finished watching "The Interview," and I know what you want to ask. Did it get any better? No, frankly, it didn't. In one scene, a North Korean producer bit off one of the Rogen character's fingers after the Rogen character stopped the producer from cutting the feed. And, well, the Rogen character returned the favor. And that was just the start of the 20 minutes of obscure, over-the-top violence that was the ending of "The Interview." Given the choice between arguing about religion or politics with crazy Uncle Joe or sitting through "The Interview" this Christmas, you should definitely choose Uncle Joe. There's only so much torture you should be subjected to over the holidays.