Review: “The Majestic”

Contrived like you wouldn’t believe, “The Majestic” is an attempt to do a modern day recreation of the famed Frank Capra movies of the 1950’s including the likes of “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Whereas ‘Life’ was a sweet tale from a more innocent time, “The Majestic” relies so much on sentiment it makes the content of Spielberg’s 80’s movies seem as cynical as “The War of the Roses” in comparison.

Director Frank Darabont makes no move to update the material, there’s no satire about the time or the system – its a serious fable about the spirit of a small town in the 50’s where everyone is so nice to each other and sweet that its beyond believable (if you were in Carrey’s position you’d constantly be asking yourself “what’s the gag?”). The last good effort from Carrey was “The Truman Show” which had him as the focus within another ‘perfect community’ but Weir’s directing and a killer script which revealed the entire world to be a setup for TV turned it into an excellent film – a satire of reality television a good year or two before it became big. No such cleverness here despite some very visible elements which seem to want to be.

The characters follow the genre stereotype to the letter – the happy mayor, the nice doctor, the wise African-American old man, etc. The town is pitch perfect too – everyone is nice to each other, dresses conservatively, all the houses are perfect lots, and the darkest thing you’ll find is a harsh word on very rare occasions. It represents the 50’s version of suburban utopia if there ever was one – the good old days alright when if you were a straight white Christian family adult male, life was perfect. People never got stoned, had pre-marital sex and there lay nothing beyond the outer limits of the town let alone out of the country – a time when naievity was celebrated.

It’s so cliche and sweet-natured, it borders on the offensive. Maybe 40 years ago audiences could buy that scenario but these days it honestly looks like the filmmakers are insulting our intelligence to the point of treating us almost like pre-schoolers. When the entire town turns up to check out the re-opening of the Majestic movie theatre, the only thought in my head was that if I was a thief then this would be the perfect time to pick every house clean.

The nasty element of the film, the truly evil and ridiculous 50’s “commies hunting” which bordered on the biggest modern day element of mass hysteria and innuendo since the Salem witch trials, is the one element which proves somewhat interesting, even if this version feels very sanitised and false. Indeed, a small town’s occupants at that time would be the first lot of people to fall into the trap of McCarthyism which makes the ending ‘return’ scene and their treatment of Carrey once they know the truth to be not only lacking credibility but ridiculous to the extreme.

I suppose you could call this a tribute to old movies and a different era. Aside from a few second grabs from “Sand Pirates of the Sahara” – an unfunny B&W spoof of 50’s B-movies, the element of film hardly seems to be a part of the tale. There’s talk about the communal experience of films and how warm it is to see movies with an audience in grand old theatre but the trouble is for most of us under 40 we’ve never lived in anything but a multiplex dominated life where audiences are more annoying (with endless bickering and/or commentary on films, mobile phones going off, etc.) than anything else.

Its a film full of cheap patriotism, uncountable cliches and over the top melodrama dragged out for an excruciatingly long 2.5 hours. Carrey does his best but the material isn’t much as like the shot-for-shot “Psycho” remake – one wonders why in the hell was a project like this done. Its a film that every ultra-conservative xenophobic old fart who constantly refers to “the good old days” would love but an average movie goer will just find either cringe inducing or quite frankly boring.