Scott Hardie | January 6, 2002
According to everything I've read, "The Majestic" is being roasted by critics as one of the worst non-teen-marketed movies of the year. I enjoy reading critics' reviews, but I'm glad I don't always listen to them. "The Majestic" is one of the best movies I've seen this year.

First I need to cite the critics. The following paragraph appeared in StudioBriefing on December 21st:

In his latest effort at playing a less-than-zany character, Jim Carrey is receiving less-than-complimentary reviews. "The Majestic isn't," writes Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times. "Rather it's 'The Film That Wasn't There', a derivative, self-satisfied fable that couldn't be more treacly and simple-minded if it tried." Liam Lacey in the Toronto Globe and Mail calls it "a painful schmaltz-a-thon," while Jack Mathews in the New York Daily News says that it oozes "sentimental goo ... and the gunk gets so think so fast, it's a wonder the projector doesn't freeze before the molasses-strapped finale." To David Germain of the Association Press, The Majestic "is a bore, plodding its way through dreary romance and blithering notions of redemption and heroic last stands." Philip Wuntch in the Dallas Morning News suggests that it could have succeeded if the director, Frank Darabont, had been less heavy-handed: "There's nothing wrong with warm 'n' fuzzy," he observes, "until the warmth and fuzziness grow suffocating." Of the major critics, only Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times, gives the film a thumbs-up. "It makes us feel about as good as any movie made this year," Ebert observes, adding "I imagine every single review of The Majestic will compare it to the works of Frank Capra, and that's as it should be. Frank Darabont has deliberately tried to make the kind of movie Capra made, about decent small-town folks standing up for traditional American values." Ebert is correct about the Capra comparisons.

If I haven't made it clear enough in my ongoing rants in this weblog, I don't like the Age of Irony. Every movie these past few years has had to have this extra layer of self-awareness. When a movie like "The Majestic" comes along that is old-fashioned and simple and doesn't have an ironic scene in it, it's rejected by the critics and the public, and to me that's a downright shame.

This is a plain movie that wears its beliefs on its sleeve. The characters are honest, the feelings genuine, the arguments sound. Every scene is paced and acted perfectly; it's like listening to an old-fashioned classic tune performed by a master musician. There is only one scene in the movie that doesn't ring true, Bob Balaban giving orders to his two strongmen to find Jim Carrey at all costs, and that's only because Balaban (either making his own choices or acting under Darabont's direction) plays his character like a cartoon villain. Every scene in the town of Lawson, where the heart of the movie takes place, is wonderful and warm and makes you smile. If you laugh at this movie because it is cheesy, I feel sorry for you, because you have been brainwashed by the times in which we live into not being able to appreciate something genuine. I'm not saying that I was moved to tears or that I even agree with every patriotic statement made by the film, just that it should be watched and appreciated for what it is, not what our times make it.

There are lots of in-jokes and little bits of trivia to a movie, but I surprised myself by catching quite a few this time. First, cameos: Bruce Campbell as the "Sand Pirate of the Sahara," Matt Damon as the voice reading Luke's letter aloud, and Carl Reiner and Rob Reiner as two of the executives altering the screenplays. There were more, I think, but that's what I remember now. Also, the movies that showed at the Majestic theater were all related to Peter/Luke's struggle with amnesia and being lost in a strange place: "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," "The Day the Earth Stood Still," "A Streetcar Named Desire," "An American in Paris." I thought that was really neat. And for once I didn't read it in a movie trivia site, I actually found it on my own.


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