The Longest Story Ever Told
Patient: The Majestic
Profile:Interminable film about guy mistaken for war hero though he can't remember who he is, which is fortunate for him since he's starring in what my colleague Manohla Dargis says "may just be the most boring movie ever made." Think Sullivan's Travels meets The Longest Day meets The Frank Capra Catalog meets Hail the Conquering Heromeets The Never Ending Story meets The Return of Martin Guerre meets The Never Ending Story (Director's Cut) meets Cinema Paradiso meets The Longest Story Ever Told. Symptoms: This movie is loooong (not so much Sitting Through the Bronze Age long, more Receiving Chemotherapy During the Bronze Age long). That's owing some to its two-and-a-half-hour length but owes more to the fact that it's horrible. It's ridiculous to spend time on a movie that purports to skewer Hollywood contrivances and then sets some sort of record for them: the amnesiac hero, the long-lost love, sturdy townspeople pulling together, the healing nature of movies, and the big speech at the end that ends the Red Scare before Joseph McCarthy even gets started. The bigger issue is the screenwriters who continue to write this nicest guy/Everyman crap for Jim Carrey and Robin Williams, dumbing down and washing out the two once-great comics—remember In Living Color?—who choose nowadays to channel their affectation of Jimmy Stewart—remember Patch Adams?Sorry. Diagnosis:The truest moment featured a young woman sitting nearby and pleading, "When is it going to end?"
Prescription: Stop trying to be Jimmy Stewart. Jimmy Stewart wasn't even Jimmy Stewart. How his career came to embody these affected Everyman tools is beyond me. Stewart's most famous roles are not nice guys. It's a Wonderful Life's George Bailey is bitter, taunts his children and despises his rube neighbors. His characters in Rear Window and Vertigo have serious psychosexual issues, not the least of which are voyeurism and necrophilia. Stewart, his directors and writers understood that Everyman is just a man, something modern writers don't seem to grasp when creating these sugarcoated straw men for Williams and Carrey. These parts aren't just an insult to Stewart, but they are also a waste of Williams' and Carrey's talents, which is best served when they are not being nice—Williams in World According to Garp; Carrey in Liar Liar. Comics are usually better when they play mean, whether it's former standup Kevin Spacey as a homicidal maniac in The Usual Suspects, George Lopez as an anti-labor asshole in Bread and Roses or Jerry Lewis as himself in King of Comedy. They're comics, for chrissakes! They're fucked in the head! As far as The Majestic is concerned, why not have Carrey's character only pretend to have amnesia? He's falsely accused of being a Communist operative? Maybe the charge isn't so false. I don't know. All I know is if you want to bring out the best in Jim Carrey, write the worst characters, not movies.
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