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November 30, 1998 - Image 5

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1998-11-30

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The Pat McGee Band plays at the Blind Pig tonight. Check out
the acoustic rock band that toured with the Counting Crows, The
Allman Brothers and on the H.O.R.D.E. festival. It'll be a grand old
time at the Blind Pig. Doors open at 8 p.m., and the show begins
at 9 p.m. Cover is $8.

uri~ £tdmtuft
A1 T

Toorrow in Daily Arts:
it seems like the last Breaking Records was just yester-
day, but alas, it happens again tomorrow. Check out the
review of N.W.A.'s new CD.
Monday
November 30, 1998

'Ringmaster' has lots of talk, little point

By Matthew Barrett
Daily Arts Writer
Connie is a dreamer. She stands in front of
a mirror, dolling herself up, knowing that one
day she'll be a shining star. She practices her
lines and checks out her appearance. Someday
soon, fame will come calling. The vehicle for
her 15 minutes of stardom? A trip to "The
Jerry Show,' where in front of a national tele-
vision audience she can call out her husband
for sleeping with his stepdaughter.
Connie is just one of many low-life charac-
ters out for a chance to shine in "Ringmaster."
The movie is the story of a fictional talk show,
its guests, and its annoying host, Jerry. In a
brilliant stroke of originality, trash talk show
host Jerry is played by trash talk show host
Jerry Springer.
"Ringmaster," which is supposed to be a
behind the scenes look at the workings of a

television talk show, would have been much
more interesting if it were an actual documen-
tary on "The Jerry Springer Show."
The makers of the
movie take elements of
the talk show and try to
translate them to the
Ringmaster screen, but it just does-
n't work. The audience
No Stars is hit over the head with
At Showcase humor that isn't funny
and State and a preachy finale
which is about as
appropriate as someone
in a glass house throw-
ing boulders.
"Ringmaster" relies
on talk show brawls for
much of its humor, but they don't pack the
same punch as the television versions.

Although, the fights on the real Springer show
may or may not be staged, they're a lot more
interesting to watch happen spontaneously
than some choreographed skirmishes between
actors for the movie.
Another downside is that the makers of the
movie elevate the negative aspects of their
guests to ridiculous extremes. After all, how
many gals would really be thrilled to fly out to
Los Angeles so that they could be worked on
by a professional makeup artist?
The film's acting and talent is bottom of the
barrel material; Springer basically plays him-
self, his big acting scenes consist of puzzled
looks, and Michael Jai White ("Spawn"), the
only other person of note, does nothing more
than flex his rippling biceps.
"Ringmaster" builds to a fist-filled finale,
where all the eclectic characters join together
for a taping of "The Jerry Show." The show is

actually funny for a few seconds, but the
fights get old very fast.
The flick's low point comes when, during
his time on the soapbox, Jerry is interrupted
by a moralist who rags on the show. Jerry
points out that the people on his show are no
different and do the same things as the celebri-
ties that this country places on pedestals.
Right Jer, Monica and Bill are on the top of
our pedestal these days.
Jerry finishes off his sermon with "This is a
slice of American life and if you don't like it
bite something else." Try your tongue, Jerry.
Those behind "Ringmaster" would have
had much better results if they had gone for a
Howard Stern "Private Parts"-style retelling of
Springer's life. There, rather than playing a
mysterious radio broadcaster named Howard,
Stern traced his life up until his explosion of
popularity. And it worked. And this doesn't.

Courtesy of Artisan Entertainment
* "Ringmaster," catch Jerry Springer talk with outrageous
folks and sign autographs on women's T-shirts.

'Home Fries' serves
up greasy comedy

By Erin Podolsky
Daily Arts Writer
About the only thing a Burger-
Matic fast food franchise and the
Army's Cobra helicopters have in
common is a radio frequency.
Strange thing. But when you get to
the end of "Home Fries," a shared
frequency is the only thing that
doesn't seem strange at all.
Brothers and co-pilots Dorian
(Luke Wilson) and Angus (Jake
Busey) fly out one night intent on
scaring a not-so-innocent man
with their military machine if not
to death, then at least to fidelity -
but their philandering stepfather
hasn't taken his heart medication.
The helicopter breathing down his
neck like
something out
of "The X-
Files" (which
Home isn't really sur-
Fries prising, con-
sidering that
the movie was
At Ann Arbor 1 & 2 written by one
and Showcase of the main
"XF" writers)
proves too
much for him,
p and he goes
down with a
fatal heart
attack. The stale, frozen body is
found the next morning by the
local cops, who proceed to turn it
into a stale, frozen joke.
The movie's ad campaign makes
"Home Fries" out to be a romantic
comedy centering on the love story
between Drew Barrymore and
Luke Wilson. The movie's ad cam-
paign also happens to be dead
wrong. "Home Fries" is more
about the demented family ties
that bind than the patently unbe-
lievably love story that inevitably
takes place for lack of a better plot
idea, and it succeeds neither here
nor there.

There aren't really any unan-
swered questions in "Home Fries"
once you understand the bizarre
relationships between the charac-
ters. The dead stepdad, Henry
Lever, frequented the Burger-Matic
so much that he ended up impreg-
nating Sally (Drew Barrymore), a
faithful Burger-Matic employee.
Vanilla shakes make great fore-
play. His wife found out about the
affair (but not the impending child)
and instructed her dutiful sons to
kill her husband, which they did.
This brings us up to speed with the
present, as the movie deals with the
screwy aftermath of the death. The
step-patricide whets Angus'
appetite for destruction - not to
mention his mother's love - and he
becomes obsessed with seeking
and destroying Lever's partner in
crime.
Angus is also overly concerned
that the crossed radio waves will
come back to haunt the brothers in
court someday, so he bullies the
much more passive Dorian into
getting a job at the burger joint to
do a little "recon." Meanwhile,
Sally wants to go to Henry's wife
to apologize (Henry lied to her
about being married) and tell her
about her condition. Crossed plot-
line mania ensues. Little does
Sally know that the new Burger-
Matic employee is her lover's step-
son. Little do the brothers know
that the wholesome, pregnant
Sally, who has served them count-
less meals on the go, is the strum-
pet they're after. By the time
Dorian realizes it, he is smitten
and well on his way to love. No
matter that they've been on exactly
one date, not counting Dorian's
heroics at the Burger-Matic when
Sally's drunk of a father shows up
with a shotgun at his little son's
birthday party. No matter that the
date took place at a lamaze class.
Barrymore is her usual efferves-

'Thing' fits
The Last Thing He
Wanted;
Joan Didion,
Random House1
The title of Joan Didion's most recent+
novel, "The Last Thing He Wanted," 1
would be strikingly incongruous in ref-
erence to the book itself. At least, not
many would share the implied perspec-
tive. The book has already become a
national bestseller, and even before a
single copy had been opened by a read-
er, it was far from the last thing a great
number of readers wanted.
The novel is Didion's first in more
than a decade, and while the dust jacket
is just a trifle over-the-top in referring to
her as a "legendary author," she is one of
the few serious American novelists who
can be said to have a fan base. While her
devotees did have Didion's memoir
"After Henry" to bridge that gap
between novels, it is clear she is not
exactly the Punxutawney groundhog in
terms of regularity.
So hurrah for the momentous event of
this book's publication, but what is the
book anyhow? Well, it is a thriller. That
is, it is a tale of international political
intrigue and espionage, and it centers on
the moral crises of its protagonist, who is
a character unexpectedly enmeshed in a
unprincipled and unfamiliar world full
of danger and mystery.1
I think it's fair to say that other people1
have written that novel before.
But only Didion has written this
novel, which admittedly is all those
hackneyed-sounding things, but com-1
bines them into something much weird-
er, and much more impressive, than any-
thing the latest Robert Ludlum wannabe
could comprehend creating.l
For one thing, Didion does not simply
narrate this tale, but blurs the very bor-1
ders of fiction with her narrator, whose
voice dizzyingly impersonates Didion's
own, say in one of her nonfiction works.1
Didion seems to be trying to fool the

our wants
reader into treating the narrator as
Didion herself when she recounts the
process of researching and putting
together the story she is in the midst of
telling, and why she decided to tell it the
way she does. As she says in the first
chapter, "The best story I ever told was a
reef dream. This is something different."
Different is what it definitely is, warp-
ing through space, time, perspective, and
hallucination in such a matter-of-fact
way that the narrative has the illusion of
being linear. The central kernel of the
story is reporter Elena McMahon's deci-
sion to quit her job covering the 1984
presidential campaign for The
Washington Post. McMahon didn't need
the income and obtained the job primar-
ily through the influence of her tycoon
ex-husband.
The reason she leaves her job, though,
is to do a favor for her shady father. He
is a character who does not exactly have
Big Time Operator written all over him,
but in fact sucks Elena into a morass of
epic proportions that seems inspired by
the Nicaraguan contra scandal, with
enough details changed to protect the
guilty.
In the midst of secret agents, massive
arms dealing and state-sponsored terror-
ism, Elena becomes the co-conspirator
and lover of Treat Morrison. In a way,
Treat is Elena's double. To his covert
world, his insider role is of the same
breed as her outsider, or for that matter,
the insider she was in the world she
came from.
Even when this pair crosses signifi-
cant moral boundaries, they maintain a
blank canvas, the remote surface identity
of those acted on by forces beyond their
control. Over the course of the novel,
Didion questions whether they cease to
have any identity at all, or are simply
consumed, even in the midst of life, by
the labyrinth of history.
"They were the same person," Didion
writes at one point. The terrifying sub-
text is that that person is no person.
- Jeff Druchniak

courtesy of Warner Bros.
Drew Barrymore smells home fries on the breath of Luke Wilson.

cent self, looking pleasantly plump
for her role as the pregnant drive-
thru window maven. The problem
with this is that her style doesn't
jibe with the rest of the characters,
except perhaps Dorian. Dorian is
more doofus than knight in shining
armor and is more (but not much
more) entertaining to look at than
to endure Wilson's acting. Wilson
bears a passing resemblance to a
"Mission: Impossible"-era Tom
Cruise, but that's where the simi-
larities end. Busey and O'Hara are
mildly amusing but tend to bore,
especially when the plot dips into
movie-of-the-week mode as it
decides to fuel Angus' vengeful
rage by admitting that Mrs. Lever
loves Dorian "this much more"

than Angus. Ouch. Snore.
"Home Fries" doesn't snap and
it doesn't sizzle. The best thing it
has going for it is the quirky, com-
plicated premise, but that doesn't
even approach captivating for
more than five minutes. The par-
ents and Angus are mere carica-
tures and the romance that blooms
between Sally and Dorian is diffi-
cult to swallow, no matter how
much burger grease director Dean
Parisot slaps on. The writing is
rooted in some of the quirkier
episodes of "The X-Files" but with
none of the charm that those
wacky FBI agents add.
Stay home. Eat some tasty left-
overs instead of indulging in this
half-baked comedy.

i a

Check out Weekend, etc. this
Thursday when it takes a look at
the jumps and joys of swing dancing.
This Venitian scoundrel swindles his acquaintances
out of their money, jewels and wives!
\1OLPONE
a comedy by -01
Ben Jonson

-ooing for a job
where you can
*teach in a
developing country;
www.worldteach.org
5iiI WordTeaCh
Harvard Institute fpr International Development
800-4-TEACH'-O
info aworldteach.org
MICH IGAN

directed by
john Nevile-
Andrews

INSIDE Om. -

1 1. \

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