Anyone who is public enemy #1 for the fundamentalists can't be all bad.
Howard Stern has injected his "Private Parts" into the American mainstream--not bad for a dorky, gangling string bean from Long Island with an enemies list as long as your arm. Based on Stern's book, produced by Ivan Reitman, and directed with style by Betty Thomas, the movie is a familiar reflection of a middle-aged man nursing an adolescent obsession with bathroom jokes and sex.
What makes the movie a surprise is Howard Stern's self-deprecating humor and gentle ways with the people he cares about. The mean spirit that inflames his critics has been left in the studio, making way for an almost charming guy who loves his wife and kids and doesn't mind in the least being known as a perennial juvenile. He wears his arrested development with pride.
As a nerdy outsider with a resolute determination to be on the radio, Stern was a long shot in the disc jockey sweepstakes. Flailing around in search of a radio persona, he found it finally when he decided to "let things fly." At that point, Stern began to use his marriage and all of contemporary culture as fodder for his on-air monologues. He uses America for target practice.
It's anybody's guess whether this movie's mild comedian or the radio shock jock is the real Howard Stern. He would have us believe that the public man is a manufactured creation who dives into performance mode on the countdown to airtime. His movie is an undisguised plea: "Love me, please!"
The strongest part of the movie covers Stern's time at NBC, where he arrived fortified by ratings that showed a public avid for his equal-opportunity poison. The network brass, horrified at the pollution of their flagship station, assign Kenny, a hot young programmer, to tame the monster. "This little puppy is finally going to be housebroken," Kenny sneers.
Stealing every scene he's in, Paul Giamatti, as Kenny, creates an unforgettable corporate slimeball who is immediately christened "Pig Vomit" by Stern. Oozing ambition and mediocrity, Pig Vomit meets his match. Giamatti, a classically trained actor and son of Yale's renowned former president, is simply terrific as the sputtering suit. Giamatti the elder, no stranger himself to multiple talents and interests, would be proud.
The country has brought Howard Stern on itself. Regardless of where any one of us stands on the issues spectrum, our collective vitality has been sapped by the well-intentioned, failed phenomenon of political correctness. Refined to ludicrous extremes through natural evolution, it makes all of us sound like idiots. "Hearing impaired" and "mentally challenged" are phrases fairly begging for a stand-up comedian aching to prick the hot air balloon.
With a 5.6 share of a listening market that is sick of hypocrisy, Howard Stern has the power now to be as outrageous as he wants. In the foulmouthed balloon pricker, we got what we deserved. Besides, anyone who is public enemy #1 for the fundamentalists can't be all bad.
Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 496
Studio : Paramount
Rating : R
Running Time: 1h49m
Copyright (c) Illusion
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