Picks and Pans Review: Switching Channels

updated 03/14/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/14/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

This just in: Disaster has struck our nation's theaters in the form of an alleged comedy starring Kathleen Turner, Burt Reynolds and Christopher Reeve. Several people have been seen making early exits. They were the lucky ones. Others, stupefied by the film's laugh anemia, could only mumble incoherently as they staggered into the night. Onlookers are hard put to pinpoint just when things went so calamitously wrong. A few recall that audiences chuckled during the film's first few minutes as the comely Turner, playing a Chicago TV reporter, rushed about covering beats from City Hall to the local horse races. It has been reported that the Oscar-nominated movie Broadcast News may have been a contributing factor—leading ticket buyers to expect a smart and funny treatment of TV news. Goodwill dissolved, however, at about the time Turner told Reynolds, her ex-husband and the station's slave-driving news manager, that she was quitting her job to marry Reeve, a millionaire. "My lord!" shouted one spectator in horror, "they're trying to remake The Front Pager Panic ensued. Screenwriter Jonathan Reynolds has confessed that he indeed updated the Ben Hecht-Charles MacArthur classic 1928 play, changing the locale from a newspaper to a TV station. But he gave no reasons for leaving out the play's wit, character and feeling. Reports say a more crucial error was made by Ted (First Blood) Kotcheff, the director. Kotcheff had instructed the cast to talk fast in the style of 1930s screwball comedies, but not fast enough to obscure the dialogue. Audible groans filled the air when nearly an hour into the picture cheap jokes were still being made about Reeve's character being a manufacturer of jockstraps. Worse, witnesses claim, was the irritating smugness of the three stars, who kept grinning as if they'd been asked to say cheese and hold the expression for two hours. Authorities say the main hope is that word of the film's ineptitude will spread quickly. In the event of exposure, be advised that there is an antidote. Rent a video of director Howard Hawks's His Girl Friday, a 1940 remake of The Front Page with Rosalind Russell, Cary Grant and Ralph Bellamy. In minutes your faith in the movie comedy will be restored. (PG)

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