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Mixed Thumbs

“Great Balls of Fire,” which opened last weekend to dismal ticket sales nationwide ($5.6 million in five days from 1,417 screens), got a mixed reaction from the folks in Jerry Lee Lewis country. Samples:

* “Most people here that I’ve talked to enjoyed the picture,” said Stanley Nelson, columnist for the Concordia Sentinel, based in Jer Lee’s hometown of Ferriday, La. Mayor Glen McGlothin gave the pic a thumbs-up, Nelson said, while questioning some of its accuracy.

* In neighboring Alexandria, Daily Town Talk film critic Rick Bentley dubbed the pic “quirky,” accusing director Jim McBride of “clunkers (that) will have you wincing worse than listening to 100 novice accordion players butchering ‘Lady of Spain.’ ” Bentley was more upbeat about Winona Ryder, who played Lewis’ 13-year-old bride, and thought star Dennis Quaid was “born to play Lewis.”

* Donald La Badie, film critic for Memphis’ Commercial-Appeal, felt McBride’s mix of song-and-dance numbers and serious biographical data “collide.” He found Quaid’s performance “overwrought. . . . His manic, country bumpkin-as-clown prince performance is going to strike some as peculiar. . . .” But La Badie praised Ryder: “This is acting that could become as legendary as Bette Davis’ breakthrough in ‘Of Human Bondage,’ and Katharine Hepburn’s in ‘A Bill of Divorcement.’ ”

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The Natchez (Miss.) Democrat, located just across the Mississippi River from Ferriday, has yet to review the movie.

“Things go a little slower here,” said life-style editor Kristi Lamont. “Our film critic will probably see the movie this weekend.”


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