Stand up for The Interview (as a movie)

There’s a strain I’ve noticed in pieces about The Interview of offhandedly dismissing the movie itself.

Here’s Ross Douthat, for example:

But if you care about the movies, then what’s happened to Seth Rogen and James Franco’s comedy is also related to the depressing story that Harris has to tell. Not because a coarse comedy about two idiot celebrities assassinating the North Korean dictator represents some kind of brilliant alternative to the sameness of sequels, but because its fate will become (already has become, in fact) a cautionary tale in an industry that’s already so risk-averse, so fearful of political controversy, so determined to make movies that sell equally well in every overseas market, that the North Koreans themselves were one the last available real-world villains for its blockbusters.

Or Clooney:

This was a dumb comedy that was about to come out. With the First Amendment, you’re never protecting Jefferson; it’s usually protecting some guy who’s burning a flag or doing something stupid. This is a silly comedy, but the truth is, what it now says about us is a whole lot.

I already took this fight to Twitter, vs. The National Review Online’s AJ Delgado:


(source is Box Office Mojo)

I don’t get it.

I have a clear bias here: I have never met but like Franco and Rogen and I like people involved in The Interview.  But I don’t think that’s what got me steamed.

The Interview, to me, seems like a bold, interesting movie starring two actors who’ve been making cool, interesting choices for over a decade.

Yeah, it’s easy to make fun of James Franco’s pretentiousness (and what were you like at 22?). But you know what? a) he’s done it better than you and b) fuck you. Here’s a dude who’s using his fame to explore whatever art or avenue engages his curiosity. What do you want from the guy? He’s spending his time and energy experimenting, exploring, and improving himself.

And Rogen? Here is a consistently positive, jolly presence in American public life who’s sharp and self-effacing and honest. Watch him speak bluntly to Letterman about smoking weed:

Are you as open about your habits, crutches, and pleasures?

These guys are both terrific actors, they are smart, and they are entrepreneurial.

They made a bold, risky movie. Yeah, it’s got dumb jokes in it. All successful movie comedies have dumb jokes in them. All comedy that’s worth anything risks being silly.

But these guys are making what they love. Franco and Rogen are unabashed about their love of dumb fun laughs. Along the way, the movie they made also appears to be about fame, global politics, the intersection of news and entertainment, friendship, male insecurity — how many A list actors with the clout to make stuff are consistently picking projects as inventive as these guys?

Look, I haven’t seen the movie. Maybe it’s terrible. Maybe it’s amazing. Probably, like 90% of movies, it’s in between. But I don’t like a knee jerk critical reaction that it’s dumb. (I don’t really like critics at all, to be honest.) If you think The Interview sucks, then you star in one of the best TV shows ever, go on to make cool, fun, talked-about and also wildly profitable comedies, or win an Oscar for single handedly carrying a pretty experimental movie that not only was a huge hit but also cinematically daring and innovative, and build the clout to create your own $44 million projects on the strength of your talent and very perceptive grasp of what stories an audience of millions wants to see.

(I guess Clooney has done all that.  OK, Clooney gets a pass.)

But of course, you can’t think The Interview sucks because you haven’t gotten to see it!

What cheesed me off, of course, is that I think all this shows a snobbish, lazy, kneejerk, snarky lack of respect for comedy, and how hard it is to make comedy.

In these distressing times, we should be honoring our comedians.  Even if they do make a lot of dick jokes.

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