The Paper (1994)

"You're not a columnist. You're a reporter who writes long." - Michael
Keaton to Randy Quaid

Ron Howard makes good, old-fashioned Hollywood movies with good,
old-fashioned Hollywood casts. In PARENTHOOD, Opie snagged Steve Martin,
Rick Moranis, Dianne Wiest, and Mary Steenburgen. In BACKDRAFT, he
"fired" Kurt Russell, William Baldwin, Scott Glenn, and Bobby DeNiro.
Howard's newest, THE PAPER, is an immensely enjoyable big-city newpaper
nod with a by-line that reads Michael Keaton, Robert Duvall, Glenn
Close, Marisa Tomei, and Randy Quaid.

So what if the notion of a newspaper film is nothing more than a tired
truckstop on the information highway?  In New York City-- where the
story is set-- newspaper newsrooms, plural, still exist and still reach
a readership that television hasn't turned completely illiterate. This
PAPER is the fictional "New York Sun," a tabloid loosely modeled on the
"New York Post."

First and foremost, THE PAPER reminds us why we like Michael Keaton. As
the editor of the City Desk, who's worried about everything from a job
interview to a very-pregnant wife (Tomei), Keaton crackles with an
energy that we haven't seen in years.  MY LIFE was no life and the real
Mr. Mom appeared only briefly in both MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING and BATMAN

THE PAPER brings Keaton back into the foreground with a role he can sink
his sharp teeth into. His character is super-strung and lives on Coke
product placements and never takes a break to eat or sleep or have a
lengthy conversation with his wife. He stays wired as only Keaton can,
which is one-step below W.F.O. Except for one scene on a phone call to
Spalding Gray-- who plays an edtior at a rival 'paper-- when Keaton get
nuts and transforms into Beetlejuice Beetlejuice Beetlejuice. And that's
why we love him.

Compared to Keaton, the rest of the cast moves in slow motion.

Randy Quaid is a riot as a gun-toting columnist who's waging a personal
war against the City's parking commissioner. Even in a mock-serious bar
fight, Quaid drops one-liners like the seasoned pro that he is. Marisa
Tomei seems to have fewer scenes than Quaid, but she has a good time
getting ticked at her husband and playing roving reporter and looking
like all other movie wives who are at least ten-years younger than their

Glenn Close is a delight as the bitchy Managing Editor who is
perpetually feuding with Keaton up to the point of exchanging blows
without the benefit of rubber costumes. Her role improves with the
running time, though, and Close closes the film with a classic line.

Oddly, Robert Duvall is wasted as the weary-with-prostrate-cancer
Editor-in-Chief.  We've heard his voice-of-experience rap before and
with an estranged-daughter subplot, his character exists solely to
hammer home the central idea of "do not squander time, that is the stuff
life is made of."

The dialogue crackles from start to finish. Pick your scene and pick
your favorite line. Keaton to Quaid: "When did you get so paranoid?"
Quaid to Keaton: "When they started plotting against me." The words are
backed by impressive images-- a nice synthesis of photography and
production design. Which translates into a lot of conversations with
gorgeous skylines or gargantuan printing presses in the background.

THE PAPER smudges in a few spots. Howard employs a handy-cam too many
times and, obviously, didn't watch either HUSBANDS AND WIVES or
MANHATTEN MURDER MYSTERY to see just how annoying that technique can be.
Unless you're filming in Poland, Ron, keep your stuff steady. The story
is also rather pat in places and this to be expected because in a Ron
Howard film *everything* gets wrapped in a comfortable and logical

Still, a little more grit would've been welcome.

Finally, THE PAPER is a great sum of great parts. Smaller, but no less
significant, bits include a hilarious bar fight with Jason Alexander
wearing a fake moustache and waving a gun while overacting; a wall of
clocks displaying separate times for each borough; and Tomei
touch-typing baby-shower thank-you notes. (Rated "R"/~114 min.)

BOTTOM LINE:  Big cast, big budget, and big story. Also the best Michael
Keaton movie in years.

Grade: B+

Copyright 1994 by Michael J. Legeros

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