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Movie Answer Man (12/24/1995)

Q. I'm interested in your opinion of this situation. Man meets woman. Man is attracted to woman and asks her out. They have a nice time. By third date, man is sleeping with women, a few doors down the hall from his 12-year-old daughter. Behavior continues for two months. Man is sharply criticized for his behavior. Man is appalled that his sexual behavior could in any way be linked to his character. Man attacks his critics as "lacking character," since after all his girl friend is "hard working" and they are "in love." I have just described the story line of "The American President." To me, this movie is a wolf in sheep's clothing. The comedy is priceless, but the moral message is distressing. The message is that sexual behavior has nothing to do with character, and those who think otherwise are the bad guys. What do you think? (Deena King, Santa Monica).

A. I think we have to decide about the character of the man and woman on the basis of what we learn about them in the movie, and the movie is written in such a way that we approve of them and think they are good people. Their courtship does seem to proceed rapidly as you describe it, but "screen time" is a strange and elusive thing, and most of the audience was probably not thinking that they slept together on their third date; they were sensing it was about time for the second act to begin.

Q. Just read your review of "Fair Game" (1995), where you point out the discrepancy that these super high-tech villains, for all their technology, don't seem to have heard about satellite communications. It occurred to me that, with the technology and software described in the review, these guys could just put it on the market and make way more than they could steal with it. Also, that they must have had millions in the first place just to put it together. Perhaps the moviegoing public does not have a real conception of the development costs of systems like these, or the potential profit they represent, or they wouldn't accept these plot premises. (Cory Boyan, Santa Rosa, Calif.)

A. A related problem, of course, is that they hope to get rich by destroying the world's economy.

Q. I note that director Paul Verhoeven has cut four minutes out of "Showgirls" to make a tamer video release, and this version has received an R rating? Blockbuster has announced that they will carry that version. Of course, the film will also be available in the NC-17 version in other stores. (Jeffrey Graebner, Columbus, Ohio)

A. Funny, that's just what I was thinking while I watched the movie: Take out four minutes, and it's a highly moral story.

Q. I have noticed that with a lot of movies, a couple years after they have been released on video cassette, a Special Edition is released ONLY on laserdisc. Why only Laserdisc? Why not VHS tape also? (Sharon Prediger, Saskatoon, SK., Canada)

A. Two reasons: The people interested in special editions tend to be laserdisc-oriented, since that is the format of choice for buffs. Second, laserdiscs allow the parallel soundtracks on which the running commentaries, etc., are placed, and the freeze-frame capacity for the stills, etc. Tape does not offer these features, so a "special edition" on tape would be a forlorn thing.

Q. When you review a movie and give it two and a half stars in the paper, is that a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on your TV program? (Mike D'Alessandro, Actor, Mass.)

A. Three stars means thumbs up, anything less means thumbs down. This is a firm rule with me. My colleague Gene Siskel on three occasions given thumbs-up to 2.5-star movies--always, he assures me, after prudent consideration. What is obviously required here is a horizontal thumb.

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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