Choosing the movie is half the adventure, paying off the popcorn debt is the rest

November 16, 1995|By Kevin Cowherd

TO AVOID THE dust-ups that once made a night out seem like Ali vs. Frazier, my wife and I have a new system for deciding what movie we're going to see.

This new system is called "taking turns."

Apparently the way it works is, first we go see a movie she wants to see. Then next time, I get to pick the movie. Then the next time it's her turn, and so on.

I know, I know what's that all about?

To me, the whole thing has the gooey, overly democratic feel of a kindergarten class run by Moonies. ("Clean-up time, boys and girls! Whose turn is it to put away the clay? Justin, did you put it away last time?")

But my wife claims we never go see any movies she wants to see, which she characterizes as movies in which a Dodge Viper doesn't explode in a towering fireball and the lead characters speak in complete sentences.

We go back and forth on this. My feeling is: Hey, what movie isn't enhanced by someone's intestines getting splattered against the wall, courtesy of a 12-gauge shotgun?

Don't tell me that's not art.

But my wife, she's like a fanatic on the subject. You can't even talk to her about it.

To be honest, I don't even like going to the movies anymore. There's too much pressure involved.

For instance, as soon as you walk in, you have to deal with that whole issue of what size popcorn to buy.

Do you want the popcorn that comes in a tub the size of a trash barrel? Or do you want the popcorn that feeds only 12 and comes in a tub the size of a planter?

Same thing with the soda. Do we want the Pepsi that's large enough to bob for apples in? Or do we want the Pepsi that comes in the convenient 60-ounce container, the one with the circumference of a baby sequoia?

Plus there's always that 17-year-old Metallica disciple behind the counter who chirps: "You know, for only 50 cents more, you can get the jumbo popcorn and a large soda!"

In five years, the kid will ditch the green hair and nose ring, pull on a loud plaid sport coat, and start selling cars at Buzz Peterson's Chevrolet.

In the meantime, though, badgering movie-goers to upgrade on their popcorn/soda package is excellent training for a career in which you smooth-talk a young couple into buying a $23,000 automobile and then announce with a straight face: "I'm sorry, the floor mats are extra."

And forget about buying candy at the movies these days.

Who can afford the upgraded popcorn/soda package and candy? A box of M&M's is what now, 15 bucks?

Although I did break down and buy some candy the last time we were at the movies. This is because the candy counter looked so damn inviting, row after row of colorful boxes gleaming under the tracked lighting like fine diamonds at Cartier.

"I'd like to see something in a Kit Kat bar," I told the guy behind the counter.

He pulled a huge key ring out of his pocket and carefully unlocked one of the display cases.

"Perhaps the gentleman would care to see our selection of JuJuBees," he said. "As you can see, we also have an extensive collection of Goobers and Milk Duds. For the gentleman who appreciates Twizzlers "

Anyway, I ended up buying a Kit Kat bar and a box of Junior Mints, which set me back -- I don't know -- 60, 70 bucks.

Naturally, I didn't have that kind of money on me, so I put it on the credit card.

If there's one thing I really miss at the movies, it's the guy who used to walk up and down the aisles shining the flashlight in your eyes if you talked too loud.

This was invariably a skinny kid with terrible acne and a self-esteem problem that would leave him nailed to an analyst's couch for the next 10 years.

But the flashlight -- and that goofy red Eisenhower jacket they made him wear -- gave him a sense of power. And naturally he abused it.

Nowadays, a guy shining a flashlight in someone's face and telling him or her to be quiet would be shot dead within minutes.

Besides, for all intents and purposes, movies have become interactive these days, with audience members providing running commentary as the plot (such as it is) unfolds.

Now it's nothing to see some liquored-up frat boy in the third row shoot to his feet during the climactic helicopter chase and yell: "Yeah, baby, send a rocket up his butt!"

Which, I reminded my wife, is a complete sentence.

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