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HOLMBERG: Cyberterrorists blow up a key freedom, over a dumb comedy

Posted at 12:45 AM, Dec 18, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-18 12:32:20-05

Scary, deeply disturbing and pretty vacant.

Real cyber-terrorism from North Korea, coupled with wild threats of 9/11-type attacks, have created a bomb at the box office, killing the Christmas major motion picture release of "The Interview," a goofy comedy about a pretend assassination of dictator Kim Jung Un.

"The Interview," a goofy comedy about a pretend assassination of dictator Kim Jung Un.

There have been plenty of deeply controversial movies, but "The Interview" by Sony Pictures appears to be the first finished movie pulled as it was being distributed.

Todd Schall-Vess, manager of the Byrd Theatre here in town, and I talked about "The Last Temptation of Christ" and other movies that sparked protests in our lifetimes.

"But I've never actually seen one that was taken all the way to the point where the distributor actually said 'we're pulling the release,'" Todd said.

In case you missed it, "The Interview," starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, is a fictional comedy that tells of two well-known tabloid TV journalists who caught the fancy of  North Korean dictator Kim Jung Un, who - in real life -  took a liking to outlandish NBA star Dennis Rodman, inviting him into his home, even to hold his child.

Korean dictator Kim Jung Un, who - in real life -  took a liking to outlandish NBA star Dennis Rodman, inviting him into his home, even to hold his child.

Yes, there's plenty to mock with Un, who in real life believes he's a foot taller than he really is and claims he shot 11 holes-in-one during his first golf outing. (Never mind that thing with his uncle.)

In the movie, the CIA finds out that the blackhearted tabloid team is going to see Un and convince them to blow him up, which they do in cartoonish cinematic detail.

Ordinarily, a little controversy helps sell a movie, and this was destined to be a controversial depiction of a very scary person in a comic setting, which tends to take a little of the sting out of mockery.

Not Kim Jung Un.

The heavy-duty hacking, reportedly traced back to North Korea, convinced Sony this comedy wasn't so funny after all. The stars also quickly jumped ship once the threats of death and destruction started flying.

So much for standing up for your art.

Even though I cringe at his kind of comedy, I would've liked to have seen it just to support their right to make it.

But they had to pull it since most movies show in multiplexes these days. A terrorist threat against this movie was a threat against all movies being nationally released at this time.

Todd said he would've shown it at the Byrd, but that's a moot point, a least for now.

"I don't like what you're doing, I won't buy a ticket to it," Todd said. "That's the way it's supposed to work. It's not supposed to work by a bunch of criminals hacking into a computer and saying, 'You know what? We're going to take you down if you do this because we don't approve of that."

A good Washington Post article points out that even the worst dictators - Hitler, for example - weren't assassinated in Hollywood movies. Mocked, yes (a la Charlie Chaplin in "The Great Dictator"), but not killed.

A rare example of a sitting leader being offed, the Post reported, was the 2006 British film "Death of a President" that explored what the post 9/11 world would look like if Bush was assassinated.

"The Interview" crossed this apparent line of decorum for a stupid comedy filled with bathroom humor and slapstick.

To me, it's hardly worth inciting wild terrorist threats and very real cyber-terrorism that has shifted our cultural landscape.

And now, hackers around the world  know it works like a champ, making us surrender one of our key freedoms with a snap of their fingers.

That's scary and deeply disturbing, all for a pretty vacant movie.

Yes, you'll be able to see "The Interview" soon enough, even if only on the web.

And it was bound to happen . . . if not this movie it would've been another, or a song or a book or new law. The homegrown Anonymous groups have been ringing the warning bell.

As Todd Schall-Vess said, welcome to the new face of terrorism.

There's absolutely nothing funny about it.