IS THERE MAGIC IN “THE MAJESTIC?”

THE CRITIC DOCTOR EXAMINES: Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times), Heather Wadowski (filmthreat.com), William Arnold (seattlepi.com), Tim Merrill (filmthreat.com), Rob Blackwelder (splicedwire.com), Jeffrey Huston (believe-me.com) and Berge Garabedian (joblo.com) ^ * * * * (our of 5 stars)
A scene in The Majestic shows Harry Trimble (Martin Landau), as he plans to rebuild his movie theater, explaining the power of movies. He says something like, “In the theater, there is magic all around you. The trick is to find it.” The magic might be easier to find in this movie if it wasn’t so darn long.
The Majestic is about Peter Appleton (Jim Carrey), an up-and-coming Hollywood screenwriter for HHS Studios, who loses his job in 1951 after being targeted by the House Un-American Activities Committee for suspected Communist leanings during his college days. Appleton later crashes his car and develops amnesia. He winds up in Lawson, a small coastal town in California where townspeople recognize him as Luke Trimble, a long-lost WWII hero missing since 1944. Is he really Luke? We eventually find out, but it takes a long, long time to reveal the truth.
Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) said, “Darabont makes films long enough to sink into and move around in. ‘The Majestic’ is not as long as ‘The Green Mile’ (182 minutes), but at 143 minutes, it’s about the same length as ‘Shawshank.’ It needs the time and uses it.”
This movie dragged, Roger! “The Green Mile” and “Shawshank” are both better films and far more interesting in plot and characters. The extended screen time is justified. You may have given all three films 3 ½ stars, but I say “Shawshank” and The Majestic are definitely not on equal ground.
Heather Wadowski’s Majestic review (filmthreat.com) said, “The plot is predictable and the script doesn’t let the actors shine to their full potential. Nevertheless, Darabont still knows how to tell a moving and inspiring story that will have viewers almost forgiving him for the excess 30 minutes of footage that could have been cut without being missed.”
I forgave him, but not completely. Jim Carrey carried this film and kept my interest in a rather weak storyline. Most critics enjoyed his performance:
— “He plays it perfectly straight here, and his natural charisma carries the movie with just the right dose of Jimmy Stewart charm.” William Arnold (seattlepi.com)
— “In his first true ‘straight’ role, he delivers rock solid work, manfully resisting the urge to go all Robin Williams on us. He’s turned into a real Actor, and his work will only get better from here.” (Tim Merrill (filmthreat.com)
— “Jim Carrey practically channels the spirit of Jimmy Stewart in his measured but enthusiastically earnest performance.” Rob Blackwelder (splicedwire.com)
The Majestic is a good film, but certainly not the best I’ve seen lately. Again, it’s too long. The plot itself is extremely predictable and hard to swallow, making it difficult to feel for the characters.
Jeffrey Huston (believe-me.com) had a great idea for a plot: “Why not instead have him mosey into Lawson, see how everyone responds to him, then out of his desire to run from his old life he actually plays along with the town’s willful deception, playing the town for fools? This would layer matters beyond a forgivable issue of memory loss to one of conscience and morality. It would make for the eventual, predictable revelation of his Pete Appleton identity resonate with much more emotional complexity and credibility.”
The film is still charming in its own way. We experience small town America and get a glimpse of our country’s patriotism and the problems moviemakers faced during that period of time. Frank Capra is, indeed, written all over the film, but I think Capra would have done a better job.
Roger Ebert said, “In an age of Rambo patriotism, it is good to be reminded of Capra patriotism–to remember that America is not just about fighting and winning, but about defending our freedoms.”
September 11, 2001 opened our eyes to the importance of freedom and a movie like this couldn’t have come at a better time. Our “Majestic” crumbled to the ground in New York, but one day we will rebuild and that’s the magic of America.
Berge Garabedian (joblo.com) summed the film up best: “A difficult movie to rate. I actually had quite a few problems with this film, but overall, I did like it for its good-hearted message, its predictable yet cutesy story and its sentimentality.”
The Majestic squeaked by with 3 stars, but the film’s message, in and of itself, was the real star – the real magic in the movie. ^ –CRITIC DOCTOR
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Posted on January 3, 2002 in Features by
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