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Private Parts

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Private Parts

Starring: Howard Stern, Robin Quivers
Director: Betty Thomas
Rated: R
RunTime: 90 Minutes
Release Date: March 1997
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: Mary McCormack, Paul Giamatti, Fred Norris, Gary Dell'abate

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1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
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Review by Steve Rhodes
4 stars out of 4

I saw Howard Stern's movie at the press screening, and I laughed through almost every minute of it. The film opens nationwide this coming Friday, March 7.

First, let me assure my loyal readers that I have not been cloned. My evil twin is not the one writing this review, and I have not lost my mind.

First, confessions are in order. Before seeing Howard Stern's movie, called PRIVATE PARTS, I had never seen nor listened to Howard Stern even for a single minute. Moreover, I was absolutely sure that I had no desire to ever see him. I was so sure that his humor would be gross and mean spirited that if there had been a conflict with another press screening, as there frequently is, I would have gone to see the other film instead -- any other film.

Well, PRIVATE PARTS was the biggest pleasant surprise for me in a quite a while. Yes, the film is certainly outrageous, but so was AIRPLANE! (1980). And yes, Howard is shocking. I would postulate that Howard Stern is one of the funniest and sweetest people around. Although I laughed so hard that I even got choked, the biggest surprise for me was how tender and good spirited the show is even at its most audacious. The plot even contains the long lasting love story between Howard and Alison, his wife of twenty years. (All of Howard's entourage in the film, with the exception of Alison, are played by themselves. Alison is acted by Mary McCormack.)

PRIVATE PARTS is the autobiography of Howard's life and is based on his book. In the first part, his father Ben (Richard Portnow) tells Howard at every opportunity how moronic he is. "We never went to ballgames," reminisces Howard. "The only sport my dad liked was yelling." This gave Howard his tough skin and his obsession with being liked. Howard's antics, like those of any class clown, are disguised, plaintive cries to be wanted and be popular.

His ability to simultaneously disgust and involve an audience is seen when he is twelve. He gives a traditional puppet show at a senior citizen's home that has them all dropping like flies. He decides to jazz up the act with simulated puppet sex. Needless to say, the audience is so shocked and enraged that they can't take their eyes off the stage.

Howard's movie isn't just about Howard. The film is careful to focus in on his supporting crew, especially Robin Quivers and Fred Norris. The first to join him was cherubic looking black newscaster Robin Quivers. The rules of the time were that the DJ did his shtick, and when it came time, they switched to the newscaster. From the first day, Howard pulled Robin into his comedic fray. She is as sweet as sweet can be, but she can hold her own. In her own more subtle way, she manages to top Howard in the banter on the air. Robin gives a marvelously compelling performance in the film.

Although much of the show does happen on the air, a large portion is devoted to Howard's constant battles with management. When he finally works his way to the top -- the biggest radio station in New York -- the NBC lawyers read him the riot act. There are seven words you can not say on the air so he must stop saying them. So what does he do? In arguably the funniest scene in the show, he devises a match game where he picks a common word and lets his coworkers guess the missing, and, if taken out of context, obscene word that goes with it. (For example, if I say Hoover, you would say Dam. This is not used in the movie, but it is the only G rated one I could think of to give you the idea.) His nemesis and personal watch dog manager, Kenny (played with angry fervor by Paul Giamatti), goes ballistic when Howard violates the rules. Howard becomes vindictive and refers to Kenny on the air only as Pig Vomit.

NBC executive Roger Erlick (Michael Murphy) says that "Howard is on the FCC's Most Wanted List." NBC wants to fire him, but there is a problem. He has become the hottest DJ in the nation. How long does the average listener stay tuned to the same station? 18 minutes. For Howard it is an hour and twenty minutes. Well, how about the Howard haters, the managers ask, since there are a lot of those? Over two hours. In both cases the reason is that listeners want to know "what will he say next?"

"After all, being misunderstood is the fate of all true geniuses is it not?" laments Howard. Even earning a fortune and having millions of fans, he still worries that people will think he is just a moron.

I do not want to mislead you. The show manages to insult just about everyone. Still, the humor is non-stop, and based on the theater audience's reactions, people respond extremely well to his jokes. Go with an open mind, and you may not be able to control yourself. Howard's film raises comedy to a new level. I will reject the urge to recount more of the film's crazy antics and let you experience it yourself as I did.

As I left the theater I began to recount my favorite scene to my friend I had taken with me. As soon as I laughed my way through one, I kept remembering another that was even better. If the film had had one tenth the humor or one fourth the likeableness of its stars, I would have counted it a success. The movie it most reminded of was PEOPLE VS. LARRY FLYNT, but I liked PRIVATE PARTS better.

An incredible and unique experience. An infectiously happy show. Howard teaches us to laugh at everything in life. And yes, by the end we have fallen in love with him, his comedic conspirators, and just about everyone associated with the production. A more likable group I haven't seen in a long time.

PRIVATE PARTS flies by at 1:49. (Stay through the final credits, for the film keeps coming back on.) It is rated R for strong language, dope smoking, crude sexual humor, and nudity. Teenagers will probably love it, but make sure they are mature enough for the material. I give the film my strongest recommendation and my top rating of ****.

Copyright 1997 Steve Rhodes

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