The Interview has finally been released - but what do the critics think?

 
Emma Haslett
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The movie was released in cinemas on Christmas Day in the US (Source: Getty)

It's been one of the most dramatic run-ups to a movie release in recent memory, but after much to-ing and fro-ing - and not to mention a little embarrassment - from execs at Sony Pictures, The Interview was finally released to American audiences on Christmas Eve.

As absolutely everyone knows by now, the movie, which features stoner king Seth Rogen alongside James Franco, centres around a fictional plot to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

It's been at the centre of a storm of controversy after a group calling themselves Guardians of Peace hacked into Sony Pictures, the film's producer, and stole thousands of pieces of data, including executives' emails and unreleased films, then whacked them all unceremoniously on the internet.

We'll spare you most of the ensuing hilarity, but having decided it wasn't going to release the film at all, Sony reneged on that, not least because of some gentle words of encouragement from Barack Obama.

On Christmas Eve, the film was released online, and went into cinemas on Christmas day.

But now they've got their hands on it, do critics think The Interview is worth risking life and limb to go and see? We've got the round-up below...

The Independent

"It's a new festive tradition," says Tim Walker. "By the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree, my in-laws and I gathered around a laptop to watch Seth Rogen push a large, uncomfortable object into his own anus."

Not an encouraging-sounding start - and indeed, Walker worries that throughout the film, "Rogen and co walk the tightrope between homoeroticism and homophobia".

However, it is "intermittently funny" - although, "when Thomas Jefferson and his fellow Founding Fathers composed the First Amendment in defence of free speech, this probably isn't the sort of thing they were thinking of."

The Guardian

The Interview's real focus, suggests Jordan Hoffman, is not Kim Jong-un but "butts".

"Rarely outside the playground has there been this much giddy conversation about the digestion process."

But Rogen and Franco have "marvellous chemistry" in this "very amusing, very imbecilic film".

Most of the movie "plays out with a stoner's sense of stream-of-consciousness logic", and while the screenplay "doesn't pussyfoot around", "not all the jokes land".

However, "there’s a degree of beauty" to the idea that the film really did inspire the Guardians of Peace hack.

"Rogen and Franco are two of America’s finer bumbling man-children, and if this unessential but agreeable movie really triggered an international response, this is life reflecting art in a major way."

Businessweek

"This is what all the fuss was about?" asks Patrick Clark. The plot is "about as sophomoric as you'd expect", with women in bikinis, tigers and lyrics from Katy Perry songs.

"In a vacuum, the best thing the film has going is the parallel between [Rogen's character] Rapoport, purveyor of celebrity news, and real-life Rogen, who has made a career out of juvenile jokes".

Although Clark doesn't seem to be a fan, he does point out that this could be the beginning of a "new model for movie releases".

"It's fascinating stuff, and well worth the $5.99 it cost to stream The Interview."

Deadline.com

"The Interview isn't the worst movie ever made. It's not even the worst movie Sony released this holiday season," says Jeremy Gerard. Sounds great...

Although he admits it is largely "good natured if slapstick comedy", the film "sag[s] noticeably in the middle of its 112 minutes, as if [Rogen and co-director Evan Goldberg] really had nothing more than two jokes and an exploding head to pitch".

The film "has the earmarks of a corporate concoction gone wildly awry," he finishes. "Jokes don't land, [and] scene shifts jerk us through the threadbare plot... When the sage said it's not the high ground democracy needs to protect, it's the low-hanging fruit, The Interview is what he had in mind."

Rolling Stone

The Interview is the "movie event of the year" - even if it's for "reasons that have almost nothing to do with the movie itself", admits Peter Travers.

"I don't know any political satire that could carry the burden of repping free expression in America. The Interview certainly can't."

And yet, "it's killer funny". "Even when the jokes miss, or grow repetitive, you can't help rooting for it."

In the screenplay, Rogen and Goldberg have striven to "go beyond the dick jokes that spell easy box office", and Franco brings a "genuine sweetness to his role".

Would changing Kim's name to something more fictional have saved a lot of fuss? "Maybe," says Travers.

"But that instinct to try anything for shits and giggles and sticking it to dictatorial assholes is worth fighting for. Screw Kim if he can't take a joke."

New York Times

"By a miracle of geopolitical lunacy and media craziness, a typically antisocial... activity was transformed into a professional duty," muses A. O. Scott. "But why be modest? It was an act of patriotism."

But when it comes down to it, The Interview is "pretty much what everyone thought it would be before all the trouble started: a goofy, strenuously naughty, hit-and-miss farce, propelled not by any particular political ideas but by the usual spectacle of male sexual, emotional and existential confusion".

In fact, it's perfect viewing for a laptop - bloody jokes are "less gross" on the small screen, while the best gags "landed better in a quiet, half-distracted room" than they would have in a crowded cinema.

There are the usual problems with this genre: female characters are "aggressively reduced to objects of sexual interest", while "the stereotyping of Asians and Asian-Americans flourishes".

But that aside, the film teaches the lesson that "American pop culture is inescapable", and that "[Americans] are at our best when we are funny, stupid, sincere and immature, and that's why everybody loves us".

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