Entertainment

Stern Makes A Public Display Of Tastelessness

There are no private parts in “Private Parts.”

Radio shock-jock Howard Stern’s autobiographical, autoscatological movie pretty much lays bare his life - nerdy kid, nerdier adolescent, ultra-nerdy young adult, mega-nerdy middle-ager with a big mouth and a permanently upthrust middle finger. After a surprisingly subdued opening, the movie gets funnier and grosser, offering the kind of laughs you may have enjoyed as an eighth-grader looking up dirty words in the unabridged dictionary.

For those of us who don’t “get” him, the movie explains the appeal of the brash, crude Stern. Early on, we see him struggling to find his voice until he finally realizes that the only way he’s good is if he says everything that comes into his Aerosmith wannabe head. “Private Parts” peaks when Stern’s career peaks at NBC, where his Jell-O-spined boss is the target of his most vicious material. By then, Stern knows that breaking the rules is the key to success - he says the things that etiquette and taste prevent the rest of us from saying.

If honesty is what made Stern successful, loyalty is what humanizes him. Stern’s sweet, jokey relationship with his wife, Allison, is at the heart of “Private Parts.”

Her love shows that when Stern is away from the mike, he’s a shy, loving guy, and Mary McCormack (who hasn’t had nearly enough to do on TV’s “Murder One” since it became a boy show) is wonderful as Allison. It’s always been hard to understand how anyone could put up with the personal, painful things Stern says on the air - including jokes about his wife’s miscarriage - but seeing that Allison is bugged by his rude remarks helps us understand how Stern separates his on-air persona from his insecure, real-life persona.

Allison is also at the heart of the main problem with “Private Parts.” Much is made of the fact that she’s the only person Stern has ever had sex with, and that gets annoying. Surely “Private Parts” is the first time in history that a movie star has asked us to admire him simply because he’s faithful to his wife. If some celebrity guest on Stern’s show tried to con him with that sanctimonious garbage, he’d be the first one to tell them to put a sock in it.

MEMO: These sidebars appeared with the story: “PRIVATE PARTS” Location: Lincoln Heights, Lyons, Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls cinemas Credits: Directed by Betty Thomas, starring Howard Stern, Mary McCormack, Robin Quivers Running time: 1:48 Rating: R

OTHER VIEWS Here’s what other critics say about “Private Parts:” Duane Byrge/The Hollywood Reporter: Misunderstood geeks everywhere - a sizable majority in any metropolis - should line up for this cozy and caustic comedy and, perhaps most surprisingly, the film will appeal to educated women who have been dragged into the theater, a demographic not known for their unabashed enthusiasm for Stern’s inspired sophomorisms. Thematically, “Private Parts” is wonderfully non-PC, while stylistically, it’s “Rebel Without a Cause,” “Good Morning, Vietnam” and the triumph-of-the-nerds genre all rolled into one as it traces Howard’s gangly life from yelled-at kid to yelled-at adult. Unfortunately for Howard, he was never able to channel that adolescent anomie in the way a James Dean or a more accomplished girl-getter would have sublimated. Being misunderstood got him no girls, and so it seems, scant few friends. Playing himself, Stern is no Mel Gibson, but that’s the point. As an abrasive pain in the ass, he’s actually appealing. Lawrence Toppman/Charlotte Observer: The first time I heard Howard Stern - the time I almost drove off the New Jersey Turnpike into a concrete divider - he was holding a radio contest seven years ago. The winner would guess the day on which Stern’s wife would start her period. “Ah, well,” I thought, “it’s New York. Of course some guy’s going to carve out a niche by shocking the socks off listeners. It’s not like he’ll be nationally famous or anything.” But who knew? I haven’t heard him since, except for TV encounters while channel-surfing. I don’t know if he’s a racist and sexist imbecile, a voice of rage against corruption and venality at all social levels, or a showman who doesn’t believe his own rap and panders to the prurient. I suspect he’s all three. He’s so anxious to be liked, in fact, that “Private Parts” looks like a Woody Allen movie with Stern in the lead. The hero is a bumbling, homely, self-deprecating, sexually neurotic Jew who grows up a funny loner, then finds that comedy is an aphrodisiac and a means to power. By the end, he has won both our affection and the heart of a beautiful WASP.

These sidebars appeared with the story: “PRIVATE PARTS” Location: Lincoln Heights, Lyons, Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls cinemas Credits: Directed by Betty Thomas, starring Howard Stern, Mary McCormack, Robin Quivers Running time: 1:48 Rating: R

OTHER VIEWS Here’s what other critics say about “Private Parts:” Duane Byrge/The Hollywood Reporter: Misunderstood geeks everywhere - a sizable majority in any metropolis - should line up for this cozy and caustic comedy and, perhaps most surprisingly, the film will appeal to educated women who have been dragged into the theater, a demographic not known for their unabashed enthusiasm for Stern’s inspired sophomorisms. Thematically, “Private Parts” is wonderfully non-PC, while stylistically, it’s “Rebel Without a Cause,” “Good Morning, Vietnam” and the triumph-of-the-nerds genre all rolled into one as it traces Howard’s gangly life from yelled-at kid to yelled-at adult. Unfortunately for Howard, he was never able to channel that adolescent anomie in the way a James Dean or a more accomplished girl-getter would have sublimated. Being misunderstood got him no girls, and so it seems, scant few friends. Playing himself, Stern is no Mel Gibson, but that’s the point. As an abrasive pain in the ass, he’s actually appealing. Lawrence Toppman/Charlotte Observer: The first time I heard Howard Stern - the time I almost drove off the New Jersey Turnpike into a concrete divider - he was holding a radio contest seven years ago. The winner would guess the day on which Stern’s wife would start her period. “Ah, well,” I thought, “it’s New York. Of course some guy’s going to carve out a niche by shocking the socks off listeners. It’s not like he’ll be nationally famous or anything.” But who knew? I haven’t heard him since, except for TV encounters while channel-surfing. I don’t know if he’s a racist and sexist imbecile, a voice of rage against corruption and venality at all social levels, or a showman who doesn’t believe his own rap and panders to the prurient. I suspect he’s all three. He’s so anxious to be liked, in fact, that “Private Parts” looks like a Woody Allen movie with Stern in the lead. The hero is a bumbling, homely, self-deprecating, sexually neurotic Jew who grows up a funny loner, then finds that comedy is an aphrodisiac and a means to power. By the end, he has won both our affection and the heart of a beautiful WASP.



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