tek's rating: ½

Switching Channels (PG)
IMDb; Rotten Tomatoes; Sony Pictures; Wikipedia
streaming sites: Amazon; Google Play; iTunes; Movies Anywhere; Vudu; YouTube

Caution: spoilers.

This 1988 movie is based on a 1928 play called "The Front Page," which has been adapted into a few different movies, over the years. The only one I've seen (other than this), and probably the only one I'd be interested in ever seeing, was the 1940 screwball comedy "His Girl Friday." (I must have seen it on TV at some point, though whether that was before I saw "Switching Channels" or after it, I can't remember.) Anyway, my folks had this movie on VHS, so I saw it at least once in the late 80s and/or early 90s, which makes it just a bit nostalgic for me. And in 2013, I watched the old tape again, to write this review. The movie seems to be trying to be a screwball comedy, and I'd say it does a better job of it than one might expect. It's not as good as "His Girl Friday," but it's better than some critics would have you believe, and I think it's a shame it didn't do well financially. I thought all the actors did a reasonable job, and Turner in particular is someone I could easily imagine starring in 30s and 40s era comedies (or just about any film genre from that era, actually).

Anyway, it begins with a montage of Chicago TV reporter Christy Colleran (Kathleen Turner) doing various news reports, so we see she is terribly overworked, and finally begins to crack under the stress. So her boss (and ex-husband) John 'Sully' Sullivan (Burt Reynolds) gives her a vacation. She goes to Canada, where she meets Blaine Bingham (Christopher Reeve), the owner of a sporting goods company in New York. They quickly fall in love and decide to get married. Christy and Blaine go to Chicago so she can tell Sully she's quitting her job and moving to New York, where they'll get married in a day or two. However, there's a major news story going on about a man named Ike Roscoe (Henry Gibson), who'd been convicted of killing a cop (who had apparently dealt drugs to Ike's son, which led to his son's death). Now Ike's scheduled to be executed at midnight. Christy and Sully both believe he should be pardoned for the crime, and Sully says Christy could do a story that might make the governor (Charles Kimbrough, from Murphy Brown) grant a pardon. So Blaine convinces Christy to stay in town long enough to do the story.

Christy blackmails the prison warden into letting her interview Ike (the warden had refused to let anyone speak to him for the last few months). When Christy's story airs, the public demands that the governor pardon him, and he decides to do so. (He's going to issue the pardon on the 11 o'clock news, but first... he takes a nap.) However, his opponent in the upcoming election, Roy Ridnitz (Ned Beatty), the state's attorney who had gotten Ike convicted, finds out about this, and gets the warden to move up the execution by two hours. However, Ike- a former magician- makes an escape from the electric chair, and ends up being hidden by Christy and Sully (as well as Ike's lawyer, Pamela Farbrother, who was apparently in love with him).

And that's pretty much all I want to say about the plot, though it does have a happy ending. Ike's interview with Christy was essentially the only really dramatic part of the movie, though of course his situation was dramatic in theory, even if it was mostly played for laughs. The movie is mostly comedy, and for the most part I thought it was pretty funny. It does make most news people (other than Christy and Sully) look pretty shameless, and does the same for politicians. And of course, even if I don't think Ike deserved to be executed (and he wasn't), I don't really think he deserved to be pardoned, either. The crooked cop he killed certainly deserved to go to jail, and it doesn't bother me so much that he was killed, but I don't think that means Ike had the right to kill him. But I suppose this isn't the kind of movie that really bears much realistic thought. All that really matters is it's funny.

seriocomedy index
tek's nostalgia