Stars: * 1/2
Rating: PG for pretty godawful
Run Time: An endless 2 hours, 30 minutes
Shame on you, Frank Darabont (“The Shawshank Redemption”), for taking up my precious holiday time with glycerin tears and blue-screen sunsets. If I had wanted a sickly saccharine Christmas, I would have purchased stocking-stuffers of C&H stock.
It’s a sentimental smackdown. Jim Carrey has lost yet another shot at an Oscar by playing Peter Appleton, an upbeat, naïve screenwriter in 1950s Hollywood. You know the place – Grauman’s Chinese Theater, swanky studio lots, and a menacing black list creeping in on the periphery of paradise. Just as Appleton is making his name as a cinematic scribe, the House Un-American Activities Committee swoops down on him for suspected Communist leanings during his college years.
Watching his golden future vanish into a puff of Communist smoke, Appleton drowns his sorrows at the Coco Bongo Grill and gets behind the wheel (hey, it’s 1951, when friends still let friends drive drunk). Not unexpectedly, Appleton plunges off a bridge and takes a blow to the head that renders him an amnesiac. When he comes to, he finds himself in Mayberry, aka Lawson, California - a goody-two-shoes small town still grieving for its young WWII heroes. Unfortunately for Peter, he’s a dead-ringer for MIA solider Luke Trimble, son of Harry Trimble (Martin Landau), the owner of the town’s defunct movie palace The Majestic. Lawson embraces the miraculous return of native son Luke, and Peter, none the wiser, goes along for the Capraesque ride.
Let’s put on a show! In true Mickey Rooney fashion, Harry and son elect to celebrate Luke’s re-birth by reopening The Majestic to its former glory. Complicating matters is Luke’s former love, small town doctor’s daughter Adele Stanton (Laurie Holden), to whom Peter is (gasp!) seriously attracted.
Shades of “Cinema Paradiso”, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, and “It’s a Wonderful Life” do nothing to elevate this nauseating pabulum beyond its soap opera roots. Everything – the cars, the clothes, and the morals – is covered in the rose-colored glow of nostalgia. Without a script or dramatic edge to support it, it’s the epitome of tedium.
Carrey lends dramatic pause, but it’s lost on the gee-whiz sensibility of the dumbed-down plot and cheerful soda fountain players. Points for gauzy lighting, 50s cool, and lush photography, but maximum penalty for flatline energy. Ugh, ugh, ugh.