The Majestic (2001) Frank Darabont

Production Budget: $72 million
Worldwide Gross: $37 million

There are many films that are Capra-esque and these films seem to have a more critical eye cast on them.  These movies are usually dismissed and its kinda strange.  I mean, we pay to have our feelings manipulated in horror movies and in what we refer to as “chick flicks”.  I guess the backlash against Capra imitators is how Nancy Kerrigan would describe Disneyland “This place is hokey.”  A movie can get so saccharine sweet that you can have the emotional equivalent to a gag reflex.  I know most movies deal with unrealistic situations and events, but there are points so sweet and rose colored that we just can’t take it.  Capra was a genius at writing so as to make people feel good without jerking them around.  There is a reason why we practically name this type of movie as Capra-esque.

Really, I’m just rambling because there isn’t really that much to say about the movie production wise.  It was panned by critics as being derivative, self important crap and I remember most people seeing it as Jim Carrey making a grab at an Oscar.  The movie is about a B-movie writer who is named as a Communist and is blacklisted.  He gets drunk, crashes his car, and wakes up with amnesia in a small town.  The townspeople think he is Luke, a boy everyone in the town loved who went MIA in WWII.  Carrey helps Lukes father open a theater (The Majestic) but is soon hunted down by the courts wanting him to give up names as Communists.

Is it any good?  It was…okay.  Believe me, I like it when Jim Carrey goes serious.  I will take that any day over a Fun With Dick and Jane or a Grinch movie (with the notable exception of The Number 23).  I also like all the supporting roles especially from Martin Landau.  Majestic also works when are dealing with the townspeople and when Carrey is in the small town.  It is very sweet and likable in those times.  Where the movie really falters is when he has the side plot of Communism and the MaCarthy hearings.  The movie is 2 and a half hours and Darabont definitely needed to trim a little fat.    It takes too long to set up the story and the MaCarthy plot on the whole detracts too much from a movie that should be a love letter to movies (much like Cinema Paradiso).  It also gets way too unbelievable having Carrey giving a passionate speech about the Constitution (basically in front of MaCarthy) and having everyone slow clap and loving him by the end of it.  I’m sorry, I just had to roll my eyes at that one.  And for a movie that is about a love for movies, I am surprised at the director’s jabs at the movie industry that stories are dead and that Hollywood is a whore.

I know its unfair comparing this movie to Cinema Paradiso.  Its kind of like comparing every gangster movie to Goodfellas or superhero movies to The Dark Knight and Spider-Man.  But with Cinema Paradiso, we really feel the same passion for movies that the director has.  We see how classics have the ability to change lives and inspire people and the final scene still makes me misty.  In the Majestic, it kind of seems like an afterthought that this movie is about the joy of movies.  We get references to the Life of Emile Zola and The Day the Earth Froze and A Streetcar Named Desire but nothing more.  The focus is on the moral of having courage and standing up to bullies.  That’s fine I guess, but it seems like a bait and switch for a movie called the Majestic.

Like I said, the movie is fine.  It has its heart in the right place even though it does get too sweet and unrealistic at many points. I guess you could do a whole lot worse.  I would rather you rent Cinema Paradiso and fall in love with that movie.  That is my recommendation.


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