Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'The Interview' Roundup: Crowds Chant 'USA,' Critics Groan

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'The Interview' Roundup: Crowds Chant 'USA,' Critics Groan

Article excerpt

There are two reasons why movie goers jammed a few hundred independent theaters around the country or went online on Christmas Day to see "The Interview."

One, because they wanted to make a personal or political statement about freedom of expression. And two, because they like that sort of thing - a goofball comedy that pushes the limits of believability and taste.

"We are taking a stand for freedom," declared theater manager Lee Peterson at the Cinema Village East in Manhattan, where most of the day's screenings had sold out by early afternoon. "We want to show the world that Americans will not be told what we can or cannot watch."

The reference, of course, was to anonymous threats made against theaters scheduled to show the Sony Pictures satire about the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, which a North Korean diplomat at the United Nations called an "unpardonable mockery of our sovereignty and dignity of our supreme leader."

The FBI has connected the threats and the massive computer hack at Sony to the North Korean regime. Other experts aren't so sure, suggesting it may have been a disgruntled Sony employee.

At Atlanta's Plaza Theater, in any case, a sellout crowd joined in a boisterous sing-along of "God Bless America" before the opening credits. As the closing credits rolled at a theater in Indianapolis, the crowd chanted "USA! USA!"

But as art or just comedic distraction, how does "The Interview" stand up against other movies opening this holiday season, including "Into the Woods," "Unbroken," and "Big Eyes?" How does it fare within its genre?

Audience members may have enjoyed the spectacle surrounding the film as well as its content. But the Seth Rogen-James Franco satire was treated less kindly by many movie critics.

"I've seen worse movies.... But I don't think I've ever seen a movie this mediocre that had more real-world repercussions," writes the Monitor's Peter Rainer.

All reviewers tallied at the "Rotten Tomatoes" online film site add up to a very mediocre 49 percent positive rating. …

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