Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Majestic

I've always had a soft spot for director Frank Darabont and screenwriter Michael Sloane's sentimental (many would argue overly sentimental) 2001 movie The Majestic. Jim Carrey stars as screenwriter Peter Appleton who while fleeing an appearance in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee during the height of the Red Scare has a car accident and finds himself stumbling into a sleepy small town without his memory and a striking resemblance to one of the town's missing sons.

Derided by many critics and a commercial failure, the film is a throwback to Frank Capra playing on broad themes of patriotism, small town values, and a duty to stand up for what's right even in the face of overwhelming odds. Is it schmaltzy and emotionally manipulative? Sure, but (despite its length) it's also entertaining making great use of its star and supporting cast. The film hangs on Carrey as a man who looses his memory but finds his soul while helping a struggling time rediscover its heart as well.

The supporting cast includes Laurie Holden as Carrey's love interest (and the girlfriend of the missing soldier who he resembles), Martin Landau as the father of the missing soldier Appleton is mistakenly taken for, David Ogden Stiers, James Whitmore, and the Majestic Theater itself which is very much a living breathing member of the movie's cast. Just as the town is reinvigorated by their lost son's return Appelbaum is reborn finding new purpose getting the old movie theater up and running once more. Of course the truth of his identity and his old life come back to haunt him before all is said and done.

Darabont's film is apologetically earnest and corny about big ideas (democracy, patriotism, the evils of McCarthyism), the collective whole of a small town community as something of a living organism, and an unusual love story between a man who is mistaken for the woman's long lost love. Every bit the throwback it feels, audiences didn't know exactly what to make of it when it came out but over the past few years it's found new support on home video and cable.

Recently re-released on Blu-ray, extras include deleted scenes, the movie's trailer, and the scenes from "Sand Pirates of the Sahara" (the film which plays in the Majestic Theater).

[Warner Home Video, $14.97]

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