I have a great fondness for director Frank Darabont’s THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION and THE GREEN MILE, which made me eager to see his latest offering THE MAJESTIC ($27). Unlike his Stephen King adaptations, THE MAJESTIC didn’t seem to really catch on with audiences, which is a genuine shame, because this is a really wonderful movie. Perhaps it has something to do with an audience reluctance to accept funnyman Jim Carrey in a dramatic role. If this is the case, then those individuals that stayed away from THE MAJESTIC did themselves a huge disservice by missing one of the finest performances of Jim Carrey’s career. Instead of his usual over-the-top tact, Carrey’s work in THE MAJESTIC is understated, which perfectly suits this warm, nostalgic and heartfelt drama.
In THE MAJESTIC Carrey portrays Peter Appleton, a Hollywood writer who finds himself unexpectedly blacklisted in 1951. Drowning his sorrows in too much alcohol, Peter decides to take a drive up the coast and has a near fatal traffic accident that sends his car plummeting off a bridge. Waking up on the shoreline with no knowledge of his identity, Peter wanders in a small coastal community he is recognized by Harry Trimble (Martin Landau), who believes him to be his son Luke, who was listed as missing in action nine years earlier during World War II.
Because of his resemblance to the missing war hero, the entire town readily accepts the amnesiac as Luke, including Luke’s girlfriend Adele Stanton (Laurie Holden). "Luke’s" return home gives the town something to celebrate, after years of morning all the sons that were lost during the war. With more cause to celebrate than anyone, Harry decides that he and his son should reopen The Majestic- the town’s shuttered movie palace that fell into disrepair after the war. The cast of THE MAJESTIC also includes Allen Garfield, Amanda Detmer, Bob Balaban, Brent Briscoe, Jeffrey DeMunn, Hal Holbrook, Ron Rifkin, David Ogden Stiers, James Whitmore, Gerry Black, Karl Bury, Catherine Dent, Susan Willis, Daniel von Bargen and Bruce Campbell in an enjoyable cameo.
Warner Home Video has made THE MAJESTIC available on DVD in a 1.78:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. This is a really beautiful transfer that highlights David Tattersall’s warm glowing cinematography and Gregory Melton’s gorgeous production design. Although there are moments in the film where the photography appears slightly diffuse, the image is always crisp and very nicely detailed. Colors are vibrant and tend to lean towards the warmer side of the spectrum, which gives the film a very comfortable and welcoming feeling. Even the most intense hues are rendered with complete stability and no signs of noise or bleeding. Blacks are inky, contrast is incredibly smooth and the picture creates impressive shadow detail. Dual layer authoring keeps all traces of digital compression artifacts well concealed.
THE MAJESTIC is offered on DVD with a Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. While the sound mix isn’t particularly showy, it’s warm and just as inviting as the visuals. Since THE MAJESTIC is a dialogue driven film, sound effects come into play only at key moments- like the automobile accident. All the channels are convincingly deployed during these moments, including the surrounds, which serve to draw the viewer into the action. The most engaging part of the soundtrack is the film’s music, which effectively utilizes all of the discrete channels. Mark Isham’s score is beautifully recorded and integrated into the mix, as is the incidental music, which wistfully helps set the mood and recreates the era. Dialogue is flawlessly rendered with excellent intelligibility and a very natural timbre. A French Dolby Surround soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English and French subtitles.
Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features as well as a few extras. Seven deleted scenes are included on the DVD. All of the deleted footage is trimmed from existing scenes in the movie and only seems to have been removed to snap up the pacing. Also included on the DVD is a Movie Within A Movie segment, which offers the complete Sand Pirates Of The Sahara sequence that is shown in snippets during the course of THE MAJESTIC. A theatrical trailer, notes on the Hollywood Blacklist and filmographies for Jim Carrey and Frank Darabont close out the extras.
THE MAJESTIC is a really wonderful film that didn’t find the audience it deserved during its theatrical run. Hopefully, the DVD will allow the audience a second chance to discover the movie. If you are a Jim Carrey or Frank Darabont fan, do yourself a favor and check out THE MAJESTIC on DVD- it is a genuine delight.
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