Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Jim Carrey, Martin Landau, Laurie Holden, Bob Balaban, Gerry Black, Jeffrey DeMunn, Catherine Dent, Hal Holbrook, Ron Rifkin, David Ogden Stiers, James Whitmore
Written by: Michael Sloane
Directed by: Frank Darabont
MPAA Rating: PG for language and mild thematic elements
Running Time: 152
Date: 12/11/2001
IMDB

The Majestic (2001)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Projected Behavior

by Jeffrey M. Anderson

You'll hear Frank Capra's name thrown around a lot in connection with this very long (150 minutes), overly sappy film. But only Capra could make Capra films, and I don't know why others even try. Not to mention that Capra had a dark side that no one ever seems to pick up on. Even when The Majestic tries to get dark, it's still sugarcoated.

Jim Carrey stars as Peter Appleton, a B-level screenwriter in Hollywood who's just seen his first picture, a swashbuckler, released. (Happily, Bruce Campbell stars in the film-within-a-film). But it's the early 1950s and the blacklist has begun to rear its ugly head. Peter once attended a communist meeting in order to impress a girl, so he's immediately branded. So he takes a drive to clear his head, gets into an accident and loses his memory.

He washes up near a small town where everyone seems to recognize him as a lost war hero named Luke Trimble. Luke's father (Martin Landau) takes him back to their home above the defunct Majestic movie theater. A series of awkward homecoming scenes follows, including one with the town bully who doesn't believe that Luke is really Luke. Most of this stuff is cliche, overbaked, or both. One scene has the FBI serving Luke a summons to appear before the House Unamerican Activities Committee, but instead of knocking on his door, they wait until he's standing in the middle of the street, then roar up on him in a dozen black cars, with fifty or so armed guys in black suits getting out and swooping up to him. All this, of course, while the whole town is watching.

The movie wraps up its endless running time with Peter making a long impassioned speech to the HUAC, quoting the First Amendment, and waving a few flags. While the filmmaking bothered me, I was impressed by Carrey's restrained performance. I could only imagine how bad it would have turned out had Tom Hanks been playing the hero.

Director Frank Darabont has made long movies before, The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, but always knew how to pace things, giving us lovely moments of quiet and reflection. The Majestic blunders forward using the same gear from beginning to end. Part of the problem is that this marks the first time that Darabont -- who began his career as a writer -- did not write the screenplay himself. That honor belongs to Michael Sloane, who seems to have no other credits other than something called Hollywood Boulevard II.

In our post-Sept. 11 world, The Majestic might win over a few more fans that it would have had it been released during the summer. But for me it's still uncontrolled sentiment, poured on to such a degree that we begin to drown and long for fresh air again.

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