How's Your News?

"Extraordinary"

How's Your News? Review


I know what you must be thinking. A film about a group of mentally disabled people on a trip across America would seem to be an odd choice for a documentary. One might be further skeptical to use those individuals to interview total strangers on the street. There's a fine line between mockery and sincerity, after all.

The success of How's Your News? lies in its cunning ability to present various slices of America through the simplistic viewpoints of five mentally disabled individuals interviewing common folks on the streets of New York, Nashville, and Las Vegas. With producers Trey Parker and Matt Stone (of South Park fame) and independent film producer John Pierson's financial backing, the movie's director Arthur Bradford takes the special summer campers at Camp Jabberwocky, loaded them up in a run-down RV with tons of camera equipment, and hit the road as a roving team of news reporters. The result is an often hilarious and engaging road-trip.

The members of the team include Ronnie Simonsen -- an avid fan of soap opera star Chad Everett and a walking dictionary of '70s TV shows -- who has cerebral palsy. Sean Costello -- a quiet, Downs Syndrome sufferer who loves the state of Texas, sports, and snow globes. Larry Perry -- a sweet fellow with severe spastic cerebral palsy who cannot communicate except with "yes" and "no" finger signs. Robert Bird -- a pet-shop employee who has a peculiar speech impediment which makes all of his words sound like gibberish. And Susan Harrington -- a blind, mentally disabled woman with a lovely singing voice and an intrepid interviewer of the most common of folks.

At first, the interviews seem a bit contrived and difficult to sit through. The images of Larry convulsing in his wheelchair and holding a microphone in his hand on the streets of New York as people pass by and pretend to ignore him is unflinching and disturbing, as if the filmmakers are sadistically setting up someone for a bad Candid Camera skit. But as the camera lingers on Larry and his attempts to communicate with someone, anyone -- the film demonstrates the discomfort of people in dealings with the disabled.

The most rewarding part of the film lies in the observations of these individuals' experiences in all of the various exploits of their travels. Scenes such as Larry joyfully banging on a player piano in Nashville and Susan signing "Respect" at one of those funky Vegas karaoke/music video shops warm the heart. How's Your News? is a raw, moving tribute to the mentally disabled and their triumphs in an often cold, self-absorbed, and self-centered place... called America.

Screened at the 24th Annual Mill Valley Film Festival.

Film at 11.



How's Your News?

Facts and Figures

Run time: 82 mins

In Theaters: Tuesday 1st January 2002

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5

IMDB: 7.4 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Arthur Jacobson

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