OK this isn't exactly the most original idea ever and the whole thing feels a bit like an extended 'Twilight Zone' episode (one of the more sensible ones), but this truly is a beautiful film with the kind of performances that are guaranteed to make you smile.
A simple tale set in the 50's, a young man is accused of being a Communist and his life is turned upside down. One night he gets slightly drunk and drives his car off a bridge accidentally and ends up almost drowning. He gets washed up on the shores of a small town where he is believed to be a WWII soldier killed years before.
This is complete and utter American pie through n through and I mean that in the best way possible. Generally things like this can be quite sickening with all the Stars n Stripes patriotism and this does have that, truth be told this actually has more treacly gooey hanky moments than you can shake a stick at.
There is also the element of the all American Communist 'witch hunts' which is the whole plot beneath the surface. Its only kinda touched on really but its played out in a typically heroic way for the main character in the end. You think he will submit to the government, a government of so called democracy, but he fights for truth and justice and the American way. Yes the finale is a bit too vomit inducing for us non Americans.
What works for me is the pure visual spectale of the film with the typically quaint white building built US town set amongst the glorious Californian woodlands on the pacific coast. In short this film looks stunning, its made to look extremely whimsical of course but it works. The era makes this work even better as the sight of old classic US cars cruising around, small diners, the smart fashions, jazz/big band music etc...give the film a very homely taste that I think anyone (more so adults probably) can enjoy.
The cast is another reason to like this film, how can you not enjoy seeing Martin Landau in a brilliantly moving role. I loved 'Ed Wood' and this yet another portrayal of angst and heartbreak but even stronger than before. Gerry Black also gives us a lovely performance for the old caretaker of the Majestic, his gravelly raspy voice draws you in whilst his cheeky grin is heartwarming. James Whitmore has a small role but he sure fits in well, performance is perfect as is his costume and character design, looks good with the pipe. To be honest all the main roles are played well by a host of solid actors, many I have seen before and merely know by face, reliable character actors.
Then we have Mr Carrey, to be honest a brave move as before this he was known only for his comedies. This doesn't mean he was the right choice of course hehe, in my opinion he can't quite handle the kind of serious emotion involved here (at least at this period in his career) and you can see it. A case of being type cast for over the top crazy ass characters or idiots, due to this you keep half expecting him to do something or say something daft. Carrey never really looks too comfortable in this film surrounded by proper quality character actors, he was yet to break away from his over acting lunacy.
A charming nostalgic film that manages to homage the golden age of small town 50's America and the classic (and much missed) age of big regal looking cinemas, but is also a stirring tribute to the fallen of WWII. It is extremely cliched and cheesy, love it or hate it I doubt there will be any middle ground here. It really does pull all the obligatory heart strings to get you choked up, every old trick in the mushy book, but damn it...it works!.