Private Parts (1997) Movie Review

For those who do not live in the States, Howard Stern is a shock jock — that is, he is a radio DJ who, in the quest for better ratings (i.e. more listeners), will use anything and everything at his disposal to achieve his goal. Stern’s most commonly used ploy, and his most effective, is sex. His second most favorite ploy, as he confesses in his movie “Private Parts”, is lesbians. Stern has found that his audience (mostly blue collar men) loves lesbians; or at least they like the notion of lesbians.

“Private Parts” is based on Howard Stern’s autobiography and is, well, about Stern. In his first movie role, Stern plays himself as a college student to his present status as the number one DJ in New York City, which is quite a feat considering that Stern was in his late ’40s when he shot the film. But through quirky comedy and frank confessions, Stern is able to put us at ease by the fact that he knows he’s much too old to be playing himself 30 years earlier. As Stern says in a voiceover, “Just play along.”

“Private Parts” the movie is probably not nearly as objective as one expects from an autobiography. After all, how objective can you be when you’re playing yourself! And if Stern is known for one thing, it’s self-promotion. The man is quite literally without any semblance of shame, which is probably why he would do just about anything for ratings. With that in mind, it’s not a stretch to say that much of “Private Parts” is sugarcoated or are downright lies.

Then again, who cares? “Private Parts” is essentially a Rags to Riches Comedy, and the film works best when you forget who Howard Stern is, or that there’s even a real-life Howard Stern. The movie’s most hilarious scenes involve Stern in the radio booth doing his bits, many of which centers around vulgarity, racial jokes, and oh yes, sex. It’s all riotously funny and Stern’s lack of acting ability doesn’t seem to matter because he’s playing himself. This is the Stern we see on cable TV; the Stern we hear on the radio. To say that the man isn’t stretching himself is an understatement.

“Private Parts” is also parts Romance. Stern’s ups and downs with his wife Alison (Mary McCormack) take up the other half of the film. That part of the movie is actually very well done, and Stern surprisingly acquits himself well. Mary McCormack (“K-Pax”) does a good job expressing the inherently conflicted emotions of being Mrs. Howard Stern. In one telling scene, Alison has to defend her husband’s antics on the radio, which she does without much enthusiasm or conviction.

Which leads me to the irony of “Private Parts.” The film, and Stern, goes out of their way to point out that Stern would be nothing without Alison’s support, that he owes his undying gratitude and enormous success to her patience and love. How ironic that Stern and Alison separated a few years after the release of “Private Parts”, and Stern is now actively dating a woman at least 20 years his junior (and 20 years younger than his wife, natch).

Knowing the above, “Private Parts” loses much of its charm, and makes me wonder even more about the film’s authenticity in its, ahem, other parts…

Betty Thomas (director) / Len Blum, Michael Kalesniko (screenplay)
CAST: Howard Stern …. Himself
Robin Quivers …. Herself
Mary McCormack …. Alison Stern
Fred Norris …. Himself
Paul Giamatti …. Kenny Rushton

Buy Private Parts on DVD