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The Majestic

  the majestic
Laurie Holden searches Jim Carrey's face for a glimmer of butt-talking energy.

© 2001, Warner Bros.
All Rights Reserved

I'm sure a term that will be thrown around to describe "The Majestic" (IMDb listing) will be to call it Capra-esque. Trouble is, if Frank Capra were alive today, I don't think he would come within 100 miles of this joyless, rambling motion picture.

Peter Appleton (Jim Carrey) is an aspiring screenwriter in post-WWII America. When accused of Communist party dealings, Peter leaves Hollywood for a long drive up the coast to clear his head. During this trip, Peter gets into an accident and develops amnesia. He is soon discovered by the people in a small town in northern California that mistake Peter for Luke, one of the local boys who was feared dead during wartime. Peter, unable to remember his past, soon accepts his new life as the lost solider, even rekindling a relationship with a young woman (Laurie Holden) who missed Luke terribly, and restoring the local movie theater, The Majestic. However, as Peter is settling into his new life, agents of the government are after him looking for the answers he never gave about his past.

If you look at director Frank Darabont's track record, you will clearly see he is a man who loves to bask in the glow of long stories and running times. "The Shawshank Redemption" ran 142 minutes and "The Green Mile" ran 188 minutes. However, those films had stories of grand design and characters with souls to keep the films light on their toes. Those pictures moved. "The Majestic" is lifeless, bloated and without a heart. It has all the trappings of the earlier Darabont successes, but it's hollow all the way through.

"The Majestic" runs 150 minutes. That's right, two and a half hours to tell this simple fable. Two and a half hours to bring it to life. Two and a half hours to wallow in its frame of mind. But the film doesn't do that. It just sits there waiting for the cast to make it come alive, and the cast stands around waiting for the film to start. All this hinges on Darabont's leadership, but there is no vision this time out. There is no passion in the scenario. Darabont seems to be biding his time until he can reveal the point of all this empty space. But that moment doesn't come.

There is no life to "The Majestic," even with Jim Carrey in the lead. It's sad to report that for his big dramatic debut ("Truman Show" doesn't seem to count, as it was slapstick compared to this molasses) Carrey has decided not to do much of anything but stand there and look like a man doing important things. I know it's tough for some of you to imagine this, but try to recall Carrey's work from "Me, Myself & Irene," or even "The Truman Show," and remember the passion, the verve Carrey has in those films. He seems to love what he's doing, yet in "The Majestic" Carrey barely has a pulse. Stone-faced and solemn, this isn't what Carrey was put on Earth to do. Not that he should be a clown for the rest of his career, but he should be the most alive object on any screen he occupies. In "The Majestic," Carrey is easily the least interesting thing on screen. What can you say about a Jim Carrey film when a stuffed monkey doll has more facial expressions than its leading man? That is a bad sign.

So bad a sign, in fact, that I was recalling my thoughts on Carrey's last film, "The Grinch," from last Thanksgiving. An equally loathsome film, but for entirely different reasons, Carrey was the exact opposite of his boring work in "The Majestic." I think someone has tampered with his equilibrium, because for two years in a row, his career decisions have been way off.

It's hard to not be a skeptic with "The Majestic," even though the film is begging you to turn off your cynic switch. It's a throwback to simpler, more noble themes in movies, yet that doesn't excuse it from being indulgent and misguided. Frank Darabont used to be a director I trusted with gentle stories of humankind's capacity for good. Yet with this new film, someone should've at least hired a more authoritative editor for him.

Filmfodder Grade: D

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