[box cover]

The Majestic

At the movies, there's "good long" (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, The Fellowship of the Ring) and there's "bad long" (Meet Joe Black, The Legend of Bagger Vance). Director Frank Darabont's breakthrough feature, The Shawshank Redemption, definitely falls into the former category — even at 142 minutes, the inspiring story of hoping-against-hope never drags or feels long. But Darabont's The Majestic, on the other hand, seems at least twice as long as its inflated two-and-a-half-hour running time. It actually starts out all right; the story of Pete Appleton (Jim Carrey), a screenwriter accused of Communism in the paranoid McCarthyist '50s, kicks in right away. After losing his job and his girlfriend, Pete drives off in a funk, only to wind up driving off the side of a bridge into a roaring river and getting a big bonk on the head. When he wakes up, Pete has no idea who he is or how he got there, so when small-town man Harry Trimble (Martin Landau) claims that the mysterious stranger is none other than his long-lost soldier son, Luke, Pete goes along with it. And why not? Lawson, Calif., proves to be the kind of idyllic town that's never really existed anywhere else besides the movies — from the diner run by a sassy woman named Mabel to the town-wide dance held out at the Point, this is a community with a capital C. Of course, until the miraculous return of "Luke," it was also a community without hope; with more than 60 of its young men killed in World War II, Lawson had no reason to celebrate. Or to go to the movies, apparently; Harry's old movie palace, the Majestic, has been closed and in disrepair since the war. But Luke's reappearance motivates him to dust off the projector and get things running again — the theater's restoration gradually becomes a not-so-subtle metaphor for the return of the town's zest for life. Meanwhile, "Luke" heats things up with his old girlfriend, Adele (Laurie Holden), and learns to be the kind of conscientious, integrity-driven man Pete could never be (which all comes in pretty handy when Pete's past inevitably catches up to him). Ultimately, The Majestic aims to be an inspiring tale about freedom, passion, and conviction, but with its slow pace and predictable plot and dialogue, it falters into sappiness and forced lessons. It's a misstep even Carrey can't recover from — his Pete/Luke suffers from a decided case of over-earnestness and lacks the edge Carrey generally thrives on. He's no Jimmy Stewart, Darabont is no Frank Capra, and their movie never quite lives up to the Hollywood magic it strives to celebrate. That said, The Majestic plays well on Warner's DVD. The anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) is strong, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is clear (other options include French 2.0 Surround and English and French subtitles). Seven deleted scenes, textual notes on the Hollywood blacklist, the trailer, cast and crew information, and the uncut sequence from Pete's Sand Pirates of the Sahara movie-within-the-movie are filed under "special features." Snap-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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