Hold on Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. 'The Front Page' is back in yet another film version. Don't worry though, fellas. 'Switching Channels,' starring Burt Reynolds, Kathleen Turner and Christopher Reeve, proves your half-century-plus-old work can stand up to any modern twist Hollywood has in mind.
Ted Kotcheff ('The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz') directs three of Hollywood's most attractive comedic performers, and the trio obviously is having a great time with the snappy -- and sometimes cynical - world of hard-boiled newspeople and crooked politicians.
Much to the credit of Kotcheff and screenwriter Jonothan Reynolds, that world has changed little from 1930. The news business's most ambitious practicioners would still stoop to any low trick to get the 'big story' and politics' most unscrupulous attendants would do the same -- and worst -- to get elected.
It's the perfect combination for a movie. In fact, it's been a perfect combination for exactly four movies.
'Switching Channels' updates the old classic of a fast-talking reporter who shields an escaped murderer and his scheming editor by bringing the pair into the high-tech world of cable news. The producers of 'Switching Channels' stick to the love-interest tension introduced by the incomparable 'His Girl Friday,' directed by Harold Hawks and starring Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant in 1940.
Reynolds and Turner turn in nice work as the hard-boiled couple who love to hate one another. It was a role made for the smooth-as-silk Reynolds, although Turner seems less hard-boiled than lovably ditzy as the intrepid female reporter.
Reeve is the surprise in this movie, turning his character into a wonderful caricature of a 1988 self-absorbed yuppie businessman. There's no wonder Turner's Christy Colleran falls in love with Blaine Bingham: his good looks are hard to ignore. And we just as easily understand why she leaves him at the train station when she's hot on the trail of a big story. Blaine Bingham just can't figure out why someone would choose a job where she makes a difference over an easy and boring life; Reeve develops the sweet, funny innocence of his Clark Kent-Superman role and adds a dash of ego to end up with a thoroughly engaging male bimbo.
Other kudos go to Henry Gibson as the runty killer who faces execution for the revenge murder of his son's drug connection, who just so happens also to be a Chicago cop. Ned Beatty got little direction in this movie and plays his corrupt politician character so broadly that he's foolish. The governor, played as perfectly spineless idiot by Charles Kimbrough, puts in a far more delightful and spoofy performance.
The antics of The Front Page -- first made into a movie in 1930 by Lewis Milestone, then remade in 1940 and again in 1974 by Billy Widler, starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau as the reporter-editor duo - seem to offer each succeeding generation a new chance to take a swipe at those forever lasting evils of greed and ambition. The 1980s entry stands in good company and does credit to its bright ancestors.
This movie is rated PG. Contains some adult material on sex and violence.