Critics Consensus

Filled with lighthearted humor, timely social commentary, and dazzling visuals, Pleasantville is an artful blend of subversive satire and well-executed Hollywood formula.



Total Count: 94


Audience Score

User Ratings: 230,857
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Pleasantville Photos

Movie Info

David Wagner is a Nineties kid with a Fifties addiction. He's hooked on reruns of a classic television show called "Pleasantville," set in a simple place where everyone is swell and perky, "confrontation" is a dirty word and life is pleasingly pleasant. Addicted to this utopian world, David immerses himself in "Pleasantville" as an innocent escape from the trouble-plagued real world that he must share with his ultra-hip, totally popular twin sister, Jennifer. But one evening, life takes a bizarre twist when a peculiar repairman gives him a strange remote control, which zaps David and his sister straight into Pleasantville. All the repressed desires of life in the Fifties begin to boil up through the people of Pleasantville, changing their lives in strange and wonderful ways that none of them had even dared to dream of, until they were visited by two kids from the real world.

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Tobey Maguire
as David Wagner/Bud Parker
Reese Witherspoon
as Jennifer Wagner/Mary Sue Parker
Joan Allen
as Betty Parker
William H. Macy
as George Parker
Jeff Daniels
as Mr. Johnson
Don Knotts
as Repairman
J.T. Walsh
as Big Bob
Dawn Cody
as Betty Jean
Heather McGill
as Girl in School Yard
Paul Morgan Stetler
as College Counselor
Denise Dowse
as Health Teacher
McNally Sagal
as Science Teacher
Jane Kaczmarek
as David's Mom
Jenny Lewis
as Christin
Kai Lennox
as Mark's Lackey No. 1
Jason Behr
as Mark's Lackey No. 2
Robin Bissell
as Commercial Announcer
Harry Singleton
as Mr. Simpson
John Ganun
as Fireman No. 1
Maggie Lawson
as Lisa Anne
Andrea Taylor
as Peggy Jane
Lela Ivey
as Miss Peters
Marc Blucas
as Basketball Hero
Jason Maves
as Paper Boy
Gerald Emmerick
as TV Weatherman
Nancy Lenehan
as Marge Jenkins
Danny Strong
as Juke Box Boy
Laura Carney
as Bridge Club Lady
Dan Gillies
as Fireman No. 2
Adam Carter
as Boy in Soda Shop
David Tom
as Whitey
James Keane
as Police Chief Dan
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News & Interviews for Pleasantville

Critic Reviews for Pleasantville

All Critics (94) | Top Critics (25)

  • Ingeniously conceived and impressively executed, "Pleasantville" is a provocative, complex and surprisingly anti-nostalgic parable wrapped in the beguiling guise of a commercial high-concept comedy.

    Oct 18, 2008

    Joe Leydon

    Top Critic
  • An ingenious fable, screenwriter Ross's directorial debut playfully spoofs the small-minded lifestyle idealised by 'family values' advocates, and the intolerance and insecurity underlying that ideal.

    Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…

    Derek Adams

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • The lighthearted fable Pleasantville takes some pointed swipes at the make-believe world of 1950s TV -- and none too soon.

    Nov 6, 2002 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • There's a terrific idea at the heart of Pleasantville, and it's a shame that its creator, Big screenwriter Gary Ross, can't figure where to take it.

    Jun 18, 2002 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
  • Endearing it definitely is, so much so that it's easy to overlook the simplicity, and the sly confidence trick that gets played on us.

    Apr 12, 2002 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • One of the few recent Hollywood films out there that has used new digital technology to truly engage the viewer, and make possible a thoughtful story.

    Dec 17, 2001 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Pleasantville

  • Mar 12, 2016
    Sylvester K Super Reviewer
  • Jul 16, 2013
    Despite being a little formulaic and a tad sappy near the end, Pleasantville is actually a charming and funny directorial debut from screenwriter Gary Ross. It aims to derail the nostalgic thought of the past being "a simpler time" by introducing us David (Tobey Maguire), an awkward teenager who adores Pleasantville, a sitcom from the late 1950s. When he and his sister (Reese Witherspoon) are transported into the TV show by way of a magic remote, they begin to have a profound effect on the town and people of Pleasantville. The movie has a unique visual style that mixes color into black-and-white scenes (which is also an element of the story) to make its point about tolerance and accepting change. The cast is full of familiar faces aside from Maguire and Witherspoon, including William H. Macy, Jeff Daniels, J.T. Walsh, and, in a cleverly cast role, Don Knotts. Jeff Daniels is definitely one the highlights of the movie, and his lovable character provides some of the movie's biggest laughs early on. Reese Witherspoon has some great moments as well, especially when she's trying in vain to flirt with her date in Pleasantville. The movie plays out as a satire of the nostalgic view of a simpler past that many people choose to believe in, and it (not so subtly) reminds the audience that the past had its fair share of problems too. Ultimately Pleasantville is the rare formula-driven Hollywood movie that works, thanks in large part to its interesting visuals and talented cast, and it ends up being a very entertaining movie that's more than the sum of its parts.
    Joey S Super Reviewer
  • May 05, 2012
    It's not supposed to be anything. These are the wisest words ever said. Beautifully shot, this exactingly euphoric and colorful film.
    Adriel L Super Reviewer
  • Dec 02, 2011
    Pleasantville begins as a neat little Back to the Future-type comedy, but it slowly reveals itself to be a masterful work that tells us the inner workings of like and breaking away from the norm and how changes can be for the best.
    Bradley W Super Reviewer

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