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Director Ron Howard (Parenthood, Backdraft, Far and Away) scores with an old-fashioned entertainment about a day in the life of a New York tabloid like the Post or the News. The contrived climaxes are strictly over the top, and the Coca-Cola plugs are so frequent that the movie starts to seem like a feature-length commercial, but a bustling script by David and Stephen Koepp and fancy turns by Michael Keaton, Robert Duvall, Glenn Close (as a snarling villain), Marisa Tomei, and Randy Quaid keep your adrenaline up even when your mind is on automatic pilot. There's a very strong moment showing how a trumped-up police bust registers on the innocent party's sister, a black girl doing her homework, and it's easy to forgive the movie's ham-handed depiction of the New York Times when its west-coast ribbing of Manhattan provinciality is so on target in other places. (Indeed, one suspects that the coolness of many reviewers to both this picture and Greedy, the latter made by Howard's production company, is similarly motivated: for all their good humor, both movies are just a little too skeptical about slimy aspects of the contemporary world too often uncritically accepted.) This may not be The Front Page, but it understands what made those early newspaper pictures so breezy. With Jason Robards, Spalding Gray, and Catherine O'Hara. Bricktown Square, Golf Mill, Lincoln Village, 900 N. Michigan, Ford City, Evanston, Webster Place.

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