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Warner Home Video (DVD), ASIN B00005JKNC

Although much of this saccharine Jim Carrey vehicle plays out in a sun-drenched white-picket fence suburb in McCarthy-era California, just up the road from the bright lights of Los Angeles, the film opens in the middle of Hollywood script-writer Peter Appleton's (Carrey) professional crisis. His middling B-movie scripts endure mangling by unscrupulous studio executives beyond recognition into gooey, doe-eyed and affirmatively capitalist pap for the masses.

dvd: the majestic As his small, rather superficial life seems about to collapse beneath the weight of his growing creative frustrations, his life-long passion for film sustains him through boredom and disillusionment. Unbeknownst to Peter, government vultures circle in readiness for another public witch hunt. When his latest script is shelved, and the danger ahead becomes apparent, Peter flees the city in a whisky-fueled panic.

A freak accident sees Peter washed up some distance down-river on the shores of Lawson with no recollection of his name or identity. Thanks to an uncanny resemblance to Luke Trimble, a much-loved soldier killed in action during World War II, Peter is taken in by the kindly locals, and Luke's lonely, fragile father (Martin Landau). Gradually, he becomes part of the close-knit populace and assumes the identity of Luke Trimble, embarking on a tentative romance with Luke's glamorous girlfriend Adele (Laurie Holden), and reluctantly reviving the fortunes of his ersatz father's beloved, dilapidated cinema, The Majestic, once a major fixture in the life of the town. As Peter bonds with The Majestic's devoted staff, Luke's friends and neighbors, he brings a much needed lift to a community mourning lost sons.

But Peter's true identity refuses to be forgotten, thanks to the persistence of his pursuers, who remain convinced of his part in a vast Communist conspiracy. Peter finds himself hauled before a terrifying Committee for Un-American Activities. Events build to a triumphant finale, in which Peter bares his soul at the eleventh hour, detailing his transformation from a hapless, self-serving schmuck to a man capable of bringing the bureaucratic machine to a grinding halt by a single act of insane courage.

Carrey's performance prevents the plot from sliding into TV movie sentimentality, reprising his solid, emotive portrayal of an ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances in The Truman Show, buoyed along by an acid, if unbalanced depiction of America's incompetent, publicity-seeking inquisitors, combined with a wide-eyed enthusiasm for the movies, (the DVD edition includes Appleton's Sand Pirates of the Sahara in full) starry cameos, including Matt Damon and screenwriter/director Garry Marshall, jostling for attention with Laurie Holden's sickeningly perfect hair.

Though hackneyed in places, The Majestic deftly manages to convince, both as an affecting comedy drama and as a slice of affectionate, gentle nostalgia for the period and places it depicts, rather than trying to force laughs from its clichéd collection of small-town oddballs, and leaves even this jaded viewer with a warm, fuzzy glow.

Maysa M. Hattab

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