Why I Forced My Parents to Watch ‘The Interview’

The Interview

The only movie theater playing “The Interview” near my family’s home in Fresno, Calif., was 40 miles away. I attempted to drag my parents along, but they weren’t in the mood for a holiday road trip. Instead, we streamed the comedy on our TV for $6. And we got  to see it early, because Sony Pictures debuted it in homes a day before its limited theatrical run on Christmas.

My mom watched for 10 minutes before she disappeared to finish holiday errands. “Who wants salmon?” she asked, interrupting a string of penis and anus jokes in the R-rated satire about two U.S. journalists (James Franco and Seth Rogen) recruited by the CIA to assassinate North Korea leader Kim Jung-un. When she returned for the last act, she promptly fell asleep on our couch. But my dad stayed awake, often laughing–to my great discomfort–at many of the cruder gags. “The CIA should have stopped the release of this movie,” he quipped at one point. “It makes them look worse than North Korea.”

“The Interview” still saves its most pointed barbs for Kim. He’s depicted (by Randall Park) as a spineless tyrant who starves his people, collects fancy cars and hosts a sex party where he kisses Franco. Among his many flaws, Kim is afraid to drink margaritas because his father Kim Jong-il told him that would make him gay, and he keeps his obsession with Katy Perry a secret. When our heroes finally carry out the assassination, a scene which has already leaked online, his demise isn’t necessarily played for laughs.

After two weeks of wall-to-wall media coverage, which included a hack into Sony Pictures’ private emails, threats of Sept. 11-like violence on movie theaters carrying the film and a surprise endorsement by President Obama, “The Interview” became the most talked about movie of 2014. But on its long journey to the bigscreen, one of the film’s unintended legacies could be nudging studios to reconsider releasing their movies in homes on the same day they hit multiplexes.

“The Interview,” which cost roughly $75 million to market and make, is the biggest project to ever simultaneously open on multiple platforms. Other high-profile vehicles, such as 2011’s “Tower Heist,” for which similar release strategies were considered failed, because the owners of the multiplexes—including AMC Theatres and Regal Entertainment—refuse to show movies that are already on VOD. As a result, the films that do premiere on VOD early (like “Snowpiercer” or “The Babadook”) are arthouse titles, and Hollywood doesn’t know if the studios would earn–or lose–millions on blockbusters with a different release pattern.

Could “The Interview” change all that? The movies theaters have long argued that if their titles premiered in homes after a shorter window, fewer consumers would trek to the movies. Now we’ll finally see if that scenario spells doom for box office receipts, which are already down 5% in the United States this year. If Sony reports that “The interview” grossed more money because it was available on numerous platforms, the cash-strapped studios could push back, forcing movie theaters to revise what many already consider an outdated policy.

Then again, “The Interview” is an imperfect test case, given all the free publicity it has received. Sony originally planned on opening the film on at least 2,000 screens, but the major theater chains bailed after the hackers issued a cryptic threat last week to destroy venues showing the film. Sony indefinitely tabled “The Interview,” only to reverse its decision when Obama said in a press conference on Friday that the studio had made a mistake. “The Interview” is currently playing on 200 indie-theater screens as well as four different home platforms (such as YouTube Movies and Google Play). We might never know how much the movie actually grosses on all these various channels.

But as far as my family was concerned, $6 seems like a bargain compared to the cost of admission (not counting popcorn) of taking all your relatives to the movies. This doesn’t necessarily take money away from theaters: My baby-boomer parents aren’t in the target demographic for a Seth Rogen comedy, and the movie is still sold out on many screens. On the other hand, if we didn’t stay at home, we probably would have had time to see another theatrical release such as “The Hobbit” or “Unbroken.” If this year’s Christmas box office numbers slump, movie theaters will definitely blame “The Interview.”

My Parents’ Review of “the Interview”

Dad
Grade: B+
Review: “I thought it was a pretty good movie. It was unpredictable. It was funny. I liked the actors.”

Mom
Grade: C-
Review: “It was so boring, it made me sleep. I never fall asleep watching a movie. It was the first time that’s happened.”

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  1. Veronica says:

    I watched The Interview on Netflix and loved it. I do admit, if not for the controversy, I would never have watched it. But this was funny in an uncruel way. stupid but smart, and I loved the interaction between Aaron and Dave. I enjoyed how the Kim Jong-un character was developed. The puppy was anice inspired touch. I am a registered nurse, a greatgrandmother, and a “I am woman; hear me roar” feminist. I still loved this movie.

  2. Sal U. Lloyd says:

    Let me get this straight now, Kim kisses Franco but he’s afraid to be gay???

  3. Hans says:

    If you are 23 and ride a skateboard still live at home …. This movie is rad .Or wish SNL was R rated , this film is for you . If you can have a conversation with friends without needing to say F###. Every minute , this is not for you .

  4. GeorgiaGirl46 says:

    Really? Don’t you have more respect for your parents than to force them to watch this POS movie?

  5. Ramin Setoodeh is an A-HOLE says:

    I was planning on going to see this. Now that I know how it ends, to hell with it. Ramin Setoodeh is an A-HOLE

  6. awesome dude says:

    Did I miss the spoiler alert for this? The writer discloses the one thing most central to the whole plot, that the assassination was successful!

  7. awesome dude says:

    wtf?

  8. Alex says:

    Why are there people who think it’s our duty as American’s to watch this thing? Critics AND the suits at Sony are saying that this thing blows. I’m waiting for it to come to cable, and even then I’m not making any promises to watch it.

  9. The Dude says:

    Bad-bi-hoepay you did not like the movie? Because I am sure you watched it. Right?

  10. Goodbyenoway says:

    By forcing your parents to watch this garbage, you leave yourself open for a charge of elder abuse!

  11. the dude says:

    So why did you make your parents watch the interview?

    • Jonathan says:

      the dude, I’m wondering the exact same thing. The question was posed in the headline and never answered in the article itself. Kind of frustrating actually.

  12. Dana says:

    The story/plot alone could have been mildly interesting if they didn’t have a script writer that was Obsessed with potty humor, super crude gratuitous comment throughout the entire movie (typical for any Seth Rogen film) which made it close to unbearable to watch with family. We finished it and we’re so glad we only spent 5.99. The crude humor was so out of place and unessessary for the plot. The movie had a decent story that did keep your interest, but kept sidetracking from plotting an assassination to talk endlessly about penises- really? Who writes these scripts? It’s so annoying to viewers

  13. J.E. Vizzusi says:

    Wow, Fresh Pacific Salmon! I would take that over any overhyped fighting the crowds bad comedy any day. And may I suggest next time watching Doctor Strangelove, one of the greatest of all political farces. I guarantee Mom will not fall asleep.
    thanks.. great story, A+
    jv

    • Sam says:

      Oh c’mpn! Dr. Strangelove or How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb made me want to sleep when I watched it in a college class (Appreciation of film). I got an A+ in that class and I know a lot of movies. Strangelove was good but it also had randomness and retardness in it as well, just from another era. Not trying to be mean I just dont think the two movies compare well together.

      • J.E. Vizzusi says:

        Well that proves you can’t teach Film History in a boring Classroom. And for shit sure Stanley Kubrick would never had approved of the print being shown on a 16mm A/V projector or DVD and a pull down screen.. incredible. If you sleep through a Kubrick Film, you will sleep through life!

      • cadavra says:

        Yeah, it wasn’t a COOL movie like “Transformers,” right?

  14. Jason says:

    C- from virwing a very small portion of the movie is actually quite generous. Not even an F.

  15. jhs39 says:

    The Interview isn’t going to change anything unless it does some really eye-popping numbers on VOD–it’s a given that The Interview will do way more than something like The Babadook and Snowpiercer but it’s not likely to do enough on VOD to make up for the fact that it’s only playing in a few hundred theaters rather than two thousand. On the other hand I think Sony found the perfect price point to get even people on the fence to pony up money rather than download illegally–I expected them to charge 9.99 which seems to be the normal price for movies that get simultaneous theatrical and VOD release–charging such a high price for a 24 hour or 48 hour rental limits the legitimate audience for new VOD releases and encourages illegal downloading. Maybe if The Interview does well other studios will figure out that they’ll get more customers for VOD if they charge prices people are actually willing to pay.

    • J.E. Vizzusi says:

      I agree.. there are already hundreds of uploads to file sharing sites, many offering free downloads. Once VOD starts, numbers decrease everywhere else. Studios will never get a handle of once a film is compressed to a digital file and either streamed or downloadable, millions of illegal and bootlegs happen. The Interview may be a game changer only in the way it got publicity and most certainly not for the quality of the film itself.

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