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Movie Answer Man (10/07/2001)

Q. Shortly after seeing the mildly amusing "Zoolander," I read your review. You wrote that it was in bad taste for the filmmakers to use Malaysia's prime minister as the target of the assassination attempt by the villains of the film. Three years ago, I read your review of "Wag the Dog," which got your highest rating. In "Wag the Dog," the U.S. Government fabricates and leaks false information about an Albanian conflict, going as far as to accuse Albanians of smuggling bombs into the United States from Canada. Might not Albanian-Americans feel uncomfortable seeing a film spreading lies about their native country? Yet nowhere in your review do you mention that this film might be offensive to Albanians. Am I missing something? P.S. No I'm not Albanian. (Ryan Lindahl, Toledo, Ohio)

A. The day I begin believing that every review must be consistent with every other review is the day I go mad. I would justify this inconsistency, however, by arguing that "Wag the Dog," a pointed and intelligent political satire written by David Mamet, criticized the kind of behavior that Ben Stiller's "Zoolander" uses for unnecessary and gratuitous throwaway comedy. I do not, by the way, plan to filter every movie for the next six months through the atrocity of the terrorist attack.

Q. I was disgusted to read your review of "Zoolander," not because you hated it, but why you hated it. The events that have occurred in our nation are very tragic but should not be connected to the way you review a movie. The movie's job was to take people's minds off these events because it had nothing to do with them. Your review will be confusing in later years and not fair to this movie. It's the job of a critic to view movies without prejudice and not let their personal lives interfere. (John Norton, Indianapolis In)

A. You lost me right there at the end. My personal life does interfere, because it's me in the theater, just as it's you who allowed your personal life to interfere while you were reading my review. We are people who live in history, and cannot always leave it at the theater door. The movie would have been more effective in taking my mind off the tragic events if it hadn't made a joke out of the assassination of the prime minister of one of our Muslim allies. Now there is a big stink in Malaysia--completely unnecessary, because Stiller could have made up a fictitious country.

Q. Since September 11, one movie clip has been playing through my mind. It's from "Three Kings", when the Mark Wahlberg character contacts his wife by cell phone when being held hostage. It underlines the depth of that movie under the guise of dark comedy. (Mike Spearns, St. John's Newfoundland)

A. History repeats itself, first as farce, then as tragedy.

Q. "Rush Hour 2" has just passed the $200-million mark, but why has no one noted that this may be a first for a film with two non-Caucasians in the leads and with virtually no Caucasians at all in the cast? The two leads in the film are Chinese and African-American and the two females are Chinese and Latina. You have to go way down the list of credits to find anyone who isn't of color. I think this is quite an accomplishment, but no one, not even the releasing company, seems to have noticed. (Joe Baltake, Sacramento Bee)

A. I wish it had been "Eve's Bayou" and not "Rush Hour 2," but I agree this is a noteworthy milestone.

Q. I would like to hear your comments on the fact that Paul Crouch and his Trinity Broadcasting Network are using footage of the recent tragedies in New York and Washington in promos for their upcoming film, "Megiddo: The Omega Code 2." This, to me, seems reprehensible. (Fred Holliday, Washington DC)

A. It depends on how you look at it. Matthew Crouch, Paul's son and the film's producer, told the Los Angeles Times: "It was not God's breath that blew those planes off course and into those buildings, but when he knows that things like that are going to happen--because I believe God sees from the beginning to the end of all time--he positioned this film to be the answer for a question we didn't even know would be asked."

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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