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Movie Answer Man (07/05/1992)

Q. We took our children, of grade school age, to see "Batman Returns" because of all the publicity from McDonald's. We assumed it was a children's movie and were shocked at some of the scenes. This movie is far too violent and depressing for children.

A. That's right. That's why it was rated PG-13 (contains material that may be unsuitable for children under 13).

Q. In "Lethal Weapon 3," Rene Russo's character says, "You call that close? Close is a lingerie shop without a front window." Mel Gibson's character wasn't the only one who didn't get it. I haven't been able to find a soul to explain the joke to me, even though at least one Canadian critic thought it was the best line in the movie." (Michael Meyer, Champaign, IL)

A. The line has the form of a one-liner, and so maybe it seems to demand a laugh. I didn't get it, either. As a last resort, I posted your query in the ShowBiz Forum on CompuServe, and received the following reply from David Simkin, which supplies everything you ever wanted to know (but were afraid to ask):

"Being a screenwriter and actually having worked for Jeffrey Boam (LW3's writer) let me explain this weird line and how things like this occur. Here's the set up. Russo is a detective. She has traced the murdered suspect's phone calls to a lingerie shop. But, upon further investigation, she discovers that the shop has no front window. She intuits that a lingerie shop without a front window is like a day without sunshine. She suspects that the place is a front. So she goes with Mel to check it out.

"Now, in the filming process (where rewriting was happening on the set before takes, during takes, and often after takes), some plot points get lost or shuffled around a bit. During a shoot as crazy as LW3's was some set-ups got lost or entire scenes were collapsed down into one or two line exchanges. That results in weird narrative "burps" like this one. Now, just to cover my rear, Mr. Boam did not tell me this directly. His development director did."

Q. A great majority of the time the movies which earn raves from the critics are seldom the movies which earn raves from the moviegoer at large. My question is how do you explain this? I assume that you review and recommend movies on the basis of your personal taste. Do you believe a case could be made for a critic to review and recommend movies on a basis of what the general public would like instead of the critic's personal taste? (J. David Mecham)

A. This solution would require a critic who is prepared to lie, by pretending that his opinion is the same as he perceives the public's opinion to be. There is no shortage of such critics. Send me a stamped, self-addressed envelope and I will be happy to supply you with a list.

Q. Have you seen the longer version of "Dances with Wolves?" I read about a year ago in TV Guide that it was being released in a five hour version, but I have yet to see it anywhere. (Gene A. Picciano, Whittier, CA)

A. Five hours is pushing the envelope a little, but I have heard that Kevin Costner had a version of about four hours which he wanted to release on video. He even mentioned it backstage at the 1991 Oscars. So far, there has been no sign of it, but "director's cuts" are increasingly popular on tapes and discs, and I expect it to turn up eventually. In the meantime, check out James Cameron's director's cut of "Abyss."

Q. I need some help understanding the movie "Barton Fink". I found certain aspects hard to understand. For example, the hotel was on fire but did not burn down and the people in the hotel seemed to have no trouble at all coping with the fire. Was the hotel symbolic of Hell or something? Also in the end the girl in the picture was on the beach. I don't get it. Help! (John Nemeth)

A. The girl on the beach was the same as the girl on the postcard because the movie was making an ironic point about the hero's romantic expectations of Hollywood--by the time they came true, did he really care anymore? The hotel was symbolic of Hell or something.

The Answer Man has been busy this week, fielding questions from fans of "Batman Returns." Many of them differ with the A.M.'s opinion that the Batman sequel, while visually splendid, is less than great on the narrative level. Others are more specific. Mr. James D. Hudnall, for example, asks no less than seven questions: 

1. Where did those people get the produce to throw at the Penguin when he gave his last speech?

2. How did the Catwoman turn a raincoat into a costume that covered her from head to toe?

3. Why did Michelle Pfeiffer decide to become Catwoman after falling off the building, anyway?

4. What do Penguins live off of in the sewers?

5. How could such a cool looking place as that abandoned Zoo stay there 33 years and no one even bothers to venture into Arctic World where the Penguin hides out?

6. How did the Catwoman become immune to bullets, high voltage and drops from skyscrapers?

7. What possible use could Max Schreck have for a giant capacitor?

The Movie Answer Man is happy to oblige.

1. They bought it at the Gotham Farmer's Market.

2. By fashioning it into a costume that fit her much, much more snugly than your average raincoat.

3. Being dead, she had no part in the decision. It was made for her by the alleycats who licked her back to life.

4. They occupy the summit of a food chain that begins with tiny microscopic organisms called plankton, and extends upward through goldfish, rats, alligators, and discarded fast-food wrappers.

5. A sign outside Arctic World, reading "This way to Educational Exhibit," discouraged visitors.

6. No problem-o. The real question is, how did she become immune to gunshot wounds, electrical shocks, and hitting the pavement?

7. He could use it to power the Gotham City branch of Wally World.

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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