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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “Leno turns critic, takes Ebert’s place”

    The end of the world is near. We all knew it would happen someday.

    That’s right, Jay Leno is stepping into Roger Ebert’s shoes for next weekend’s episode of “”Ebert and Roeper and the Movies”” while the Pulitzer Prize-winning critic recuperates from cancer surgery.

    For 30 minutes, America will be subjected to the spectacle of “”Tonight Show”” host Leno and regular “”Movies”” co-host Richard Roeper trading insights about five new movies.

    Take a moment to read that last sentence again. Let it sink in.

    Sure, it’s only for a half an hour, but I have the feeling we will never be quite the same again. How can we ever feel safe switching on the set again, knowing we just might run into “”Leno and Roeper and the Movies””?

    I’ve got to ask: What’s the point of this exercise? Why not just pick two random pedestrians off the street and ask them what they thought of “”Miami Vice”” and “”Little Miss Sunshine””? Would anyone really notice the difference?

    Many people around the world find it hard to believe America would elect a president as verbally inept as George W. Bush. I’ve never found it hard to believe since Jay Leno has been our “”most popular late-night talk show host,”” in Roeper’s words, for a decade.

    This is a man who can’t get a punch line out of his mouth without wagging his head, bobbing from side to side like a jack-in-the-box and making a “”wasn’t that funny?”” expression. Then, he points to someone in the audience and laughs. Then he pulls his “”serious”” face and heads into the next joke, but he doesn’t usually make it to the finish without cracking up, like a show-off kid on amateur night.

    Somehow, he’s gotten away with it for 14 years. I have the feeling that when Leno does his last monologue, the ghost of Johnny Carson will materialize behind him, wink at the audience and say, “”Sorry I had to do this to you, folks, but I didn’t want you to think my job was easy!””

    Speaking of which, everyone likes to complain about movie critics, but it’s easy to forget how difficult their job is. Sitting through every single Hollywood product of the year could turn even the nicest person into a snarling, chain-smoking wreck whose favorite expression is “”I can’t believe you liked that movie!””

    Overall, Ebert is a fine critic: concise, witty and discerning without being a snob about it. It’s hard not to respect a man who once said the hardest part of his job was being forced to see every installment of the “”Friday the 13th”” series.

    Roeper, on the other hand, with his smug grin and uncanny resemblance to Mr. Burns’ groveling assistant Waylon Smithers (of “”The Simpsons””), is the living embodiment of everything people hate about critics.

    Unlike Leno, though, he rarely completes an entire show without saying something hilarious. Here he is on “”The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie””: “”If college kids find this entertaining, they must be on drugs!”” No comment.

    But it’s hard to pick on a guy who seems so hapless. He reminds you of the guy everyone knows for whom nothing ever goes right. When he praised “”Fahrenheit 9/11″” by saying “”Everyone in the country should see this movie!”” the quote was banned by the MPAA for encouraging kids under 16 to violate the R rating.

    The good news is that Ebert’s place will be taken the following week by Kevin Smith. In fact, if Ebert ever decides to retire, I can’t think of a better idea than inviting a different director to face off against the hapless Roeper every week. Can you say “”Ingmar Bergman and Roeper and the Movies””?

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