Private Parts - * * *

Howard Stern’s movie debut, while impressive, is unlikely to win him many new listeners. Howard, for those of you who have been out of touch for the last decade, but still manage to have an internet connection, is a “shock jock”, who has made his career by saying whatever was on his mind over the air, and thereby offending and amusing equal numbers. Private Parts, based on his autobiographical book, tells Howard’s story, because he wants people to love the man, not the myth. It follows him from a young kid under domineering parents, through his early unsuccessful attempts at disc-jockeying until he develops his successful formula. Along the way, he meets Alison (Mary McCormack), who becomes his devoted wife, through thick and thin. And of course, Stern compadres Robin Quivers, Fred Norris, and Jackie “The Joke Man” Martling portray themselves as they join the bandwagon. The film charts the rise of Howard Stern’s show, and his triumph over censors and program directors (particularly Kenny “Pig Vomit” (Paul Giamatti)). There are two general types of Howard Stern fans: the lowest-common denominator who revel in and believe in his vulgarities (those who like the “myth”) and those who know its an act, but are amused by his absolute willingness to do or say anything (those who like the “man”). His movie debut has something to please both types of his fans. For the former, although the film never descends into outright vulgarity, there’s plenty of nudity, and several “typical” Stern moments, including segment introductions by Gary Dell’Abate and a bevy of nearly naked women. For the latter, the movie portrays Stern as a sensitive geek who is able to triumph over adversity by creating an act to please the public, striking a blow for the common man. However, it seems to be Howard’s aim to win over those who aren’t in his current audience, and in this aspect, the film is hit-and-miss. The problem is his divided audience, as mentioned above. The film tries to soften Howard’s image, while maintaining it enough so that he won’t lose any of his existing fan base. Yet, by maintaining that image, even to the watered-down extent in the movie, he is driving away the same people he wants to draw in. He can’t have it both ways, he can’t be both “myth” and “man”, and its too bad, because Private Parts is actually a pretty good movie. Howard can act (it probably helps that the part isn’t much of a stretch), and so can the rest of his crew. The story is a good one (triumph of the underdog), and there’s a lot of funny stuff in here. After seeing this film, people who don’t like Stern probably still won’t like him…but there’s a good chance they’ll like the movie.

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