Pleasantville Movie Review

Not only does Pleasantville have more CGI effects than Titanic, it has more plot, better characters, and a more satisfying ending, too. Will it create the same kind of waves that the big boat did a year ago? Hardly, but discerning viewers not overcome by hype (see also The Truman Show) will probably agree with me that Pleasantvilleis truly one of the best films of the year.

Whereas Truman brought TV to a man's life, Pleasantvillebrings two teenagers to a TV show. Hasn't this been done? Well, yes, in a real stinker called Stay Tuned (1992, with John Ritter and Pam Dawber), but hopefully the dismal idiocy of that film won't color (so to speak) your judgement on this one. The plot really can't be condensed into a "TV Guide"-style logline, which means it requires a little thought to get into, but that really only enhances the moviegoing experience.

If you've seen the commercials, you know that Maguire and Witherspoon are two modern-day teens that are magically (don't ask) transported into a 1958 black-and-white sitcom called Pleasantville. Only Pleasantville is real, too. The name of the town should connote the Mayberryesque feel of the place ("Gosh, that's swell!"), and Don Knotts even makes an appearance. What you may not realize from the TV ads is that all is not well after Maguire and co. start to shake things up. Not only does Witherspoon introduce the townsfolk to sex, but books begin to have text in them, rain begins to fall, and, most importantly, colors begin to appear.

It's these changes in the town and its residents that drive the heart of the movie, with B&W's revolting against "coloreds", books being burned... altogether it becomes a minor disaster zone. To many--in Pleasantville and in the real world--change is bad. To others, change is something to embrace. To a movie audience, it's something that's definitely worthy of two hours of time and the price of a ticket.

Strong performances abound by the entire cast, particularly Macy and Allen, the husband and wife near ground zero of the events. Also, astounding direction by Ross, not to mention those special effects, keeps your eyes glued to the screen for the duration, all the while avoiding the squishiness of say, Forrest Gump.

Highly recommended.

Maguire with a vivid Marley Shelton.


Comments

Pleasantville Rating

" Extraordinary "

Rating: PG-13, 1998

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