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Laramie Movie Scope: The Paper

The best comedy about the news business since 'Broadcast News'

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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April 5, 1994 -- ``The Paper'' is an ode to those old-fashioned movies about newspapers like ``The Front Page'' and ``His Girl Friday.'' Unlike most modern movies about newspapers this one is pretty entertaining. It is the best comedy about the news business since ``Broadcast News.''

The plot reminds me a little of ``Soapdish.'' Every character in this film is living a wildly over-the-top soap opera-like existence (Don't send me any more nasty letters about this. I happen to like soap operas).

Even though the characters are not believable, the dialogue, written by David Keopp & Stephen Keopp, is so razor sharp it made watching them and listening to them great fun. Unlike the comedy in a television show such as ``Cheers'' which is funny because the characters are so stupid, the comedy in ``The Paper'' is funny because the characters are clever and witty.

Director Ron Howard does a marvelous job of holding half a dozen story lines together. He never lets the pace falter for a second.

The central character in this madhouse is everyone's favorite intense loony, Michael Keaton, playing harried editor Henry Hackett. Keaton is great in the role. He uses both his intensity and his gift for comedy to good advantage here. His pregnant wife, Martha, is well played by Marisa Tomei, an ex-reporter with major league motherhood anxieties.

Randy Quaid sparkles in a small role as McDougal, a paranoid columnist, who turns out to be one of the sanest people in the newsroom.

Robert Duvall has great fun playing Bernie White, a Lou Grant-like editor in chief who has many problems of his own. Glenn Close plays a harried managing editor, also with many problems. Close is marvelous in this film. Jason Robards, who played the editor in ``All the President's Men'' has a minor role in this film. Look quick for Bob Costas in the men's room.

The story centers on a couple of young boys arrested for a murder they didn't commit. Will the paper run a shallow story of their arrest, or dig deeper for the truth?

This film captures the excitement of reporters on the trail of a big story. Does it show how newspapers really work? Not really, but who cares? It is great fun, even if it is overdone. It rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)