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Warner Home Video presents
The Majestic (2001)

"This television thing, why would you want to stay home and watch a little box? Because it's convenient? Because you don't have to get dressed up? Because you can just sit there? How can you call that entertainment, alone in your living room? Where's the other people? Where's the audience? Where's the magic?"
- Harry Trimble (Martin Landau)

Review By: Brian Calhoun  
Published: July 18, 2002

Stars: Jim Carrey, Laurie Holden, Martin Landau
Other Stars: James Whitmore, Bob Balaban, Brent Briscoe, Hal Holbrook
Director: Frank Darabont

MPAA Rating: PG for language and mild thematic elements
Run Time: 02h:32m:34s
Release Date: June 18, 2002
UPC: 085392211920
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A A-B+A- B

DVD Review

The Majestic reminded me of a conversation I had with my brother several years ago. He asked me if I thought that Jim Carrey would eventually tackle dramatic roles as successfully as Tom Hanks. I told him I thought the very idea of it was absurd. He assured me that Hanks began his career quite similarly to Carrey, playing the buffoon in an endless amount of slapstick comedies. Nevertheless, I was not subscribing to his theory. After all, how could anyone take a man with that goofy overbite seriously? Furthermore, this is the man whose claim to fame was a character that talked out of his butt! After watching The Majestic, I believe I now owe both my brother and Mr. Carrey an apology.

The Majestic begins in Hollywood during the early 1950s. Peter Appleton (Carrey) is a screenwriter of B movies, struggling to make it on the A list. His dreams are shattered when he is blacklisted for allegedly fraternizing with communists. Disillusioned, he takes a drunken drive up the California coast and gets into a near fatal car accident that results in amnesia. Finding himself in a small coastal town without a memory, he is mistaken by the townspeople as a long lost son named Luke Trimble, who was presumed dead in World War II. Together with his new family and friends, he is able to find life anew by reopening a special town movie theater called The Majestic.

The Majestic ennobles everything that audiences found magical about movies in the 1940s and 1950s. More specifically, it is a keen throwback to the films of Frank Capra. Perhaps this is why the film was not better received at the box office. Audiences today are much more receptive to a high-budget action picture rather than a quiet and tender film modeled after Capra-corn. Sure, there is enough corn and cheese in The Majestic to feed a starving country, but the masterful way in which it is executed reeled me in hook, line, and sinker.

Jim Carrey gives a tour de force performance in the leading role. I was impressed by Carrey's dramatic turn in The Truman Show, yet I felt as if he was having trouble letting go of his comedic side. In The Majestic, this side is completely laid to rest, and Carrey slips into a quiet yet charismatic dominance reminiscent of the great Jimmy Stewart. From the opening scene, Carrey shows off his passive talent as an actor. As Peter listens to several big shot Hollywood producers alter one of his screenplays beyond recognition, the camera focuses intently on his withered reaction. Carrey's subtle facial expressions are worth a thousand words. His commendably restrained performance proves just how much emotion a capable actor can convey without dialogue. Significant mention should also be made of Martin Landau as Harry Trimble. His performance is a tender portrayal of a man with undying love for his son. The moment he recognizes Peter as his long lost child is deeply poignant. His is yet another truly genuine performance that is a testament to his status as a well-respected actor.

These masterful performances are greatly attributed to the great Frank Darabont. With only three feature-length films to his directorial credit, Darabont has quickly become one of my favorites; his knowledge of filmmaking is only surpassed by his passion for it. Darabont has admirably taken an excessively sentimental project and crafted it into a gripping piece of entertainment. It is amazing to witness how the most far-fetched concepts fully shine when created by someone with such talent. In the hands of a less capable director, The Majestic would have been a failure, a bad joke. However, Darabont knows how to execute each scene masterfully and generate heartfelt performances from his actors. The Majestic is drastically different from his previous films, but the tone of it plays with the same passionate understanding of motion pictures.

As in Darabont's previous films, The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, music plays a significant role in setting the overall tone of The Majestic. I must admit, I was a bit apprehensive when I discovered that Darabont had hired composer Mark Isham in place of his usual choice, the underrated Thomas Newman. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Isham has created a wonderfully moving score. It is fervent with emotion and sonically touching in a way that closely resembles Newman's masterpieces, making me wonder how much Darabont may be involved in the actual composition of the scores himself.

Like all of Darabont's films, The Majestic is quite long. Yet, unlike Shawshank or The Green Mile, The Majestic ultimately feels overstuffed, causing the overall effect of the film to suffer. Particularly extraneous is the ending courtroom scene. In addition to dragging out the film's already lengthy running time, this is where Darabont oversteps his boundaries and sinks the film into the pitfall of overt melodrama. This is the only flaw that I feel detracts from an otherwise enthralling cinematic experience.

The Majestic is a fitting title for a film that is full of moviemaking splendor. In this day and age of dark and somber motion pictures, it is refreshing to find that a good old-fashioned story of the human spirit can still entice our senses of wonderment. Filled with the charm and innocence of yesteryear, but created with the panache of modern day, The Majestic is an honorable salute to the art of cinema.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The original 1.85:1 aspect ratio is presented in anamorphic widescreen at approximately 1.78:1. Overall, the image is fantastic. The bold and vibrant intensity of the colors on The Majestic theater are nothing short beautiful. Black level is equally stunning, appearing as dark as could possibly be expected on a television screen. The film consists of fiery warm cinematography, which occasionally causes fleshtones to appear somewhat cartoon-like. The most unfortunate downfall to this transfer is the amount of video noise, specifically noticeable in the background. This hazy aesthetic mars what is otherwise a majestic visual experience.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
English, Frenchyes


Audio Transfer Review: While the 5.1 soundtrack is certainly not demo-worthy material, its fidelity makes for an immaculate sonic experience. This is a heavily dialogue-driven film, and the spoken words remain locked in the center channel like a vice. The nature in which the dialogue has been recorded is highly commendable; voices consistently sound clear and natural throughout. A soundtrack like this does not call for heavy surround use or deep rumbling bass, yet when these characteristics of the 5.1 format are utilized, they come across as tasteful and not too overbearing. Aggressive it is not, but this subtle audio track is the perfect complement to this quiet and enriching film.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 37 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
7 Deleted Scenes
Packaging: Snapper
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:18m:02s

Extra Extras:
  1. Movie Within the Movie: Sand Pirates of the Sahara - The Complete Sequence
  2. The Hollywood Blacklist
Extras Review: As this is a Frank Darabont film, I was not expecting much in the extras department. The special features are minimal indeed, but all of them make a nice addition to this fine film.

First is a section of seven additional scenes, presented in nonanamorphic widescreen. I thoroughly enjoyed all of these scenes, and I think each of them could have had a welcome spot in the finished film. However, with the already lengthy running time of The Majestic, the execution of these scenes was a wise choice.

Movie Within the Movie: Sand Pirates of the Sahara—The Complete Sequence is a full-length version of the fictional Peter Appleton film that is shown briefly in The Majestic. Running a little over four minutes long, this film not only looks like a 1950s B movie, it has the feel of one as well. This is another credit to the genius of Frank Darabont, complete with an appropriately hammy cameo from Bruce Campbell. Be sure to look for what appears to be an exact replica of the idol from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Believing this to be a surefire match, I perused the end credits of The Majestic and found the following acknowledgement: "Raiders of the Lost Ark prop idol courtesy of Steven Spielberg."

The theatrical trailer is presented in beautiful anamorphic widescreen, appearing as visually striking as the main feature. This is a very effective trailer that wholly encompasses the emotion of the film.

The Hollywood Blacklist is a section much like production notes. Instead of focusing on the film's production, however, this manually advanceable text reveals insight regarding the real life story of the Hollywood blacklist and the threat it created within the motion picture industry in the 1950s.

Rounding out the special features is a limited filmographies section for the cast and crew.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

Hokey as can be but as honest as they come, The Majestic is a celebration of motion picture history. Regardless of audio and video quality or special features, this sincere film deserves a place amongst any film buff's DVD library.

 


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