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Awesome: 11.11%
Worth A Look77.78%
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Pretty Bad: 11.11%
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1 review, 3 user ratings

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How's Your News?
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by Scott Weinberg

"I'd take these interviewers over the network monkeys any day of the week."
4 stars

If encapsulated as "Five disabled news reporters roam across America, asking people on the street weird questions," How's Your News? might sound like a case of simplistic comedy at best, mean-spirited parody at worst. But the truth is that this is a warm and winning little documentary, one that proves it's possible to focus on disabled people without leering, pointing or pitying. There's a sweet-natured integrity to the project, it's endearingly funny, and it shines a refreshing new spotlight of perspective onto people you'd probably overlook in a crowd.

As a guy who gags incessantly when forced to sit through tripe like I am Sam and The Other Sister, I was a little bit skeptical of How's Your News?. Based on what little I knew about the film, it seemed like something that might be disrespectful or maybe even more than a little unsavory.

I was dead wrong.

Directed by Arthur Bradford and financially backed by those two lovable South Park creators, Trey Parker & Matt Stone, How's Your News? originally got its start as an annual series of short films from the regulars at Camp Jabberwocky, which is a meeting place for people generally known as handicapped, disabled or (if you're feeling particularly patronizing) "special".

The early films consisted of the Jabberwockians as they interviewed various small town folks. Eventually some of these tapes ended up with the South Park guys, and they decided to bankroll a coast-to-coast road trip documentary / travelogue / interview marathon.

The news crew consists of five colorful characters, each of whom have their own distinctive brand of interview skills. Ronnie Simonsen is a spiritual and TV-trivia-obsessed reporter; Robert Bird communicates surprisingly well with his subjects, particularly when you consider that all of his words come out sounding like gibberish (to us, anyway); Susan Harrington is a humorously bombastic and enthusiastic gal, and one who's not afraid to teach the How's Your News? theme song to a bus full ot total strangers; Sean Costello is a soft-spoken Texan with a warm smile and an affection for Christmas snow-globes; Larry Perry, who suffers from an extreme case of cerebral palsy, wears a sign that says "Free Interviews! My Name is Larry."

It's important that I impart one very crucial thing during my recommendation of this captivating little flick; this is a movie that has a clear respect and affection for the mentally and physically disabled. Were there one slight hint of a point-and-snicker mentality to this movie, I'd be the one to spot it and label it garbage. But if the concept of spending 80-some minutes with a quintet of "mentally retarded" news reporters sounds unappealling to you...then you're precisely the kind of person who should give How's Your News? a look.

Like any worthwhile interviewers, these five are not so much fascinating because of who they are, but for what they bring out of other people. Many potential subjects just whiz on by, clearly not open to the idea of sharing a conversation with a man afflicted by Down's Syndrome. Other people pause for a second, clearly wanting to be kind and receptive, but not...exactly...sure they know how to do it. Still others (only a few, but they're worth their weight in gold) think nothing of embracing an admittedly strange stranger.

And while How's Your News? paints a pretty clear picture of how "people at large" often react to those with noticable disabilities, it doesn't cast judgment or lapse into some sort of flowery lecture about those who are "different". It may seem cruelly depressing to see Larry (a man bound to his wheelchair, unable to speak, and twisted in a perpetual spasm) wait for a willing interview subject; it's also resoundingly touching to see him later meet a young woman who treats Larry as an old friend, one who never once sees the man's affliction, and one who vibrantly kicks into a boardwalk boogie session - as Larry is clearly elated by her warmth.

How's Your News? fits right alongside another festival flick called Big City Dick: Richard Peterson's First Movie, in that both movies manage to showcase people who are clearly afflicted in one regard, but are equally gifted in others. (Corny, I know. Sue me.)

Clearly created with care, humor and heart, "How's Your News?" is not so much about "disabled people" as it is a movie about how "we" choose to see them. That (despite their physical afflictions) these are intelligent, passionate and talented people is no surprise - but movies like this help to remind us of that fact.

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originally posted: 07/18/04 14:57:50
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User Comments

3/24/07 Ed Oleski Fantastic don't miss it 5 stars
4/05/05 Larry Levine intrigued and indentifying with range of response each encounter gets 4 stars
1/12/05 jimmy b fairly weak actually. very repetitive and gets pass b/c of subject matter 2 stars
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  DVD: 20-Jul-2004



Directed by
  Arthur Bradford

Written by

  Robert Bird
  Sean Costello
  Susan Harrington
  Larry Perry
  Ronnie Simonsen

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