Peter Appleton (Jim Carrey) has it made. His screenwriting career is on the rise his first movie's just been made and he's got a cute girl. Life is good--until the House Un-American Activities Committee mistakenly fingers him as a Communist and he quickly falls from the A-list to the blacklist. Getting dumped by both his studio and his girl is nothing a little drinking can't remedy but after drowning his sorrows he nearly drowns himself when he decides to drive drunk and his car veers into the river knocking him unconscious. When Peter comes to he can't remember who he is or where he came from so he's taken in by the kindly people of Lawson a burg stuck in time and still mourning the loss of many of its sons in World War II. They mistake him for Luke Trimble one of their long-lost boys who went MIA in World War II and are overjoyed at his return. Luke's father Harry (Martin Landau) whose zest for life had dwindled so much that he let his beloved movie house The Majestic fall to ruin but with "Luke's" return he plans to reopen it. Celebrations abound. Peter-as-Luke even returns to his relationship with fiancée Adele (Laurie Holden). Meanwhile Peter may have forgotten who he was but the Feds haven't and they're on his tail.
When Carrey's given the right material like he was with The Truman Show he can exhibit moments of greatness. The Majestic doesn't give Carrey the leeway to show his quirky sensibilities demanding that he play it straight throughout the movie (there are a few--too few--glances at humor that Carrey doesn't play up). To bring off the kind of schmaltz this movie oozes Carrey had to bring something of an edge to his character. Instead Peter is neither likable nor unlikable coming off as a bland confused schmo until the climactic end which after two hours of his weak personality is wholly unbelievable. Landau is unexciting as a caricature of the sad sentimental old man without hope--you want to sympathize but there's something faintly chilly about him. Holden's liberated-woman lawyer might have played better in a contemporary movie; she looks and acts too much like a modern-day actress trying to portray a woman of the '50s.
Was this some kind of vanity project dreamed up by a director too taken with his own greatness and past success? Was Frank Darabont envisioning an It's a Wonderful Life for the next generation? (Psst…it's likely the majority of the modern moviegoing public doesn't know who Frank Capra is and could care less especially when the movie is as slow and as completely unbelievable as this one.) Apparently Darabont's in love with his own direction because hardly a moment goes by without some lingering reaction shot. Darabont took an intriguing story about amnesia and mistaken identity and slathered it with sap. Old-fashioned period stories can be lots of fun but it's imperative they be able to keep a present-day audience's interest by including a bit of modern wit and pace. Unfortunately this sticks to the straight-and-narrow. Nobody's going to buy the two-dimensional main characters the shiny happy townspeople or especially the schlocky my-country-'tis-of-thee finale. In its favor The Majestic's ultimate message is a nice one. The movie does have its heartfelt moments and its '50s feel is authentic if a little polished.
After surviving a devastating car accident following her first college party freshman Cassie (Melissa Sagemiller) falls into a coma and steps into a nightmare of otherworldly visitations. Haunted by a grim reaper of a far different kind her only hope is to cling to chance encounters with her lost love Sean (Casey Affleck) and the aid of a mysterious young priest named Father Jude (Luke Wilson). Cassie's malicious friends Matt (Wes Bentley) Annabel (Eliza Dushku) and the morose Raven (Angela Featherstone) seem intent on drawing her to the dark side but the spirit of her soul mate Sean guides her back to the world of the living.
Sagemiller (Get Over It) may be a fine actress but this film--her second full-length feature--isn't the one to prove it. Not that Sagemiller does a poor job but like most dull and stale horror movies the female lead isn't asked to do much other than look frightened and scream--a lot. Affleck (Good Will Hunting) Bentley (American Beauty) and Dushku (Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) are among the more talented actors of their generation but are completely wasted especially Affleck in his one-dimensional role. Wilson as Father Jude is the only character with an interesting part but unfortunately the good Father's development is stunted and incomplete leaving Wilson little to work with.
Steve Carpenter's first turn as a director leaves much to be desired. Of course Carpenter wrote the formulaic script so why shouldn't he be the one to helm it? One major flaw (and there are plenty to choose from) is that nearly half the movie is shot tight on the characters giving the audience a very myopic view. Even if that was intentional it certainly did nothing to heighten the tension (what little of it there was) in the movie. The flick's tagline "The World of the Dead and the World of the Living... are About to Collide" conveys the message of an epic struggle between the forces of evil and the forces of good--a struggle that never materializes. And the film's final message that love conquers all is the boring hackneyed truism that breaks the cliché camel's back.
August 17, 2001 8:30am EST
In the same vein as the 1963 comedy romp It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World and the 1981 The Cannonball Run Rat Race centers around a group of people who go dashing around the country for a big prize. In this incarnation the action starts in Las Vegas where billionaire hotel owner Donald Sinclair (John Cleese) gathers up eight people in his casino and sets them off on a race for $2 million hidden in a locker in New Mexico. He then places bets on whose going to get there first. The eight consist of two scheming brothers (Seth Green and Vince Vieluf) a disgraced NFL referee (Cuba Gooding Jr.) a mother and the daughter she gave up for adoption (Whoopi Goldberg and Lanei Chapman) a beleaguered family man and his wife (Jon Lovitz and Kathy Najimy) an uptight lawyer (Breckin Meyer) who hooks up with a cute helicopter pilot (Amy Smart) and a goofy narcoleptic Italian (Rowan Atkinson).
Like its predecessors Race combines a group of really talented comedians. Somehow this technique harms a film rather than helps it. It stems mostly from the fact that having such a large cast only gives the actors a limited amount of screen time. It's hard for any of them to truly shine. Yet in Race there are a few that just have to stand out. Cleese and Atkinson are among the best of the veterans especially Atkinson whose comedic physicality comes almost solely from his elastic face. And as far as the best of the younger set Green and Vieluf do a fair job having to wade through the horrendous antics presented to them shining for a brief moment when Vieluf (who can't speak properly because of his tongue stud) tells a sob story about their mother. However Goldberg Lovitz and Najimy are completely wasted--and Gooding Jr. just comes off as ridiculous.
In a nutshell Race is just too darn silly much like Mad Mad World was. Outrageous comedies work better in small doses such as There's Something About Mary or even Caddyshack. But when eight different story lines vie to outdo each other in outrageousness it's disastrous. Things can't get much worse than a car chasing after a hot-air balloon somehow hooking a cow to the balloon and having the cow end up hitting the windshield of a bus full of Lucille Ball look-alikes. Or how about crashing Hitler's car into a meeting of World War II veterans and having an ink mark on your upper lip that looks suspiciously like a mustache? There are a few brief moments where you chuckle out loud like when Cleese and his band of cronies start betting on which hotel maid would drop first while hanging from a curtain rod. Other than that the film simply lapses into pure drivel.