The once-popular city room yarn, epitomized by the classic "Front Page" and later "Lou Grant," has basically been usurped by the image of the ubiquitous TV reporter. Few movies dramatize print journalists anymore.
Still, there's nothing like an ink-stained wretch of an editor (Ed Asner, but clearly not Lou Grant) and a raw cub reporter (Jon Cryer) to bring a fresh blast from the newspapering past.
Mind you, "Heads" (premiering on Showtime at 8 tonight) is unlike any newspaper story you have ever seen. The loony, almost cartoon imagery of the movie nicely accommodates the maniacal Asner character, who functions in a fractured world anyway.
The weird fun starts when he promotes a naive copy editor in 1950s-looking black plastic glasses (the sweetly bumbling Cryer) to investigate the mystery behind a bunch of severed heads materializing in the quaint town's grassy knolls and back yard swimming pools.
Cut to a close-up of a sun-glassed cadaver's head bobbing like a beach ball in the victim's plastic pool. In the most priceless scene, the editor, who will do anything to juice up a story, orders Cryer to stop barfing and photograph a headless torso that happens to be reposing in a chaise lounge holding a jar of suntan lotion. Cryer's repeated efforts to balance the jar on the headless body, a scene director Paul Shapiro hilariously shoots as casual background material, is outrageous.
Adding to the macabre, indelicate black comedy (laced with vulgar words and raunchy humor) is the arrival of a strange young woman with a beguilingly quirky voice (the absorbing Jennifer Tilly) and a rich eccentric (Roddy McDowall) who lives in a marbled palace of a house where greyhound racing dogs run wild.
This charming oddity, from a story by Jay Stapelton and a script by Stapelton and Adam Brooks, is hard put to sustain its lunacy over its hour and 45-minute playing time. But it's a brand of imagination you will never see on the commercial networks.