As a fan of the golden era of cinema I have to applaud what director Frank Darabont attempted with "The Majestic" because he tried to give us a Capra-esque movie in an age where Capra style feel good movies are sadly lacking. And it is easy to spot those Capra style elements, the rousing speech as a man takes on a Committee, the welcome home celebrations at a train station, even the element of refurbishing a run down cinema all pay homage to some of Capra's greatest moments or have that feel. But and sadly there is a but because there is a vital ingredient lacking and I am not sure what, I could say its magic because a Capra movie was a magical experience but then I could say it's Jim Carrey as whilst Carrey is good he is no Jimmy Stewart or Gary Cooper. In all honesty I can't put my finger on what is missing but something is and it makes it a technical homage to Capra but one which leaves you wanting something more.
Hollywood screenwriter Peter Appleton (Jim Carrey - The Grinch) finds himself accused of being a communist in the McCarthy "witch hunt" having unknowingly attended a communist meeting as a teenager purely because he fancied a girl. It causes him to be blacklisted and his latest movie shelved and after seeking solace in the bottle ends up in a car accident. When he comes around he has no idea who he is but the people in the town of Lawson where he was found do because he is a dead ringer for Luke Trimble, the son of cinema owner Harry (Martin Landau - Rounders) who was declared dead after going missing in action. With no reason to think otherwise Peter starts living as Luke and in doing so brings some cheer back to the town which has become depressed after so many sons died in action. Whilst helping refurbish the cinema 'The Majestic' he also starts dating Adele (Laurie Holden), Luke's girlfriend, but trouble is not far away as Government Agents are looking for him to face charges for being a communist.
Story wise "The Majestic" is a return to the 30s and 40s and the era of Capra's feel good, sentimental comedies and as already mentioned there are numerous scenes which pay homage to some classic Capra scene. It's not just an entertaining homage because it is a pleasant enough story in its own right full of old fashioned innocence, sentiment and power moments such as when Peter stands up to the McCarthy "Witch Hunt" committee over charges. Those power moments are mixed wonderfully with humour and a wide variety of characters that all have a part to play in one way or another. In fact I would go as far to say that the series of scenes which revolve around Peter basically living as Luke would not have been out of place in a Capra movie.
But as already mentioned for me something is missing and I am not entirely sure what that is. Maybe it is that bit of golden era magic, that really gushy sentimental side which made Capra's movies really touch you as much as they inspired you. But then maybe it is Jim Carrey as Peter because whilst this is a good performance from Carrey, one where all his usual quirks are restrained he just doesn't have that same charisma as either Jimmy Stewart or Gary Cooper. Maybe there is something else, maybe at just over the two and a half hour mark it feels a little long but there is something which is missing which for me made it an entertaining attempt to do a Capra style movie but one which doesn't quite work.
Aside from Jim Carrey "The Majestic" is full of enjoyable performances from a collection of cinema's senior actors. Martin Landau is brilliant as Harry Trimble with a little bit of a quirky side to him but then so is Gerry Black as the wonderful Emmett Smith. And I could go on but in the same way that Carrey lacks something in comparison to Stewart and Cooper Laurie Holden as Adele also lacks something and she is no Donna Reed or Jean Arthur despite delivering a pleasant performance.
What this all boils down to is that "The Majestic" is an entertaining movie especially if like me you love the movies of Frank Capra as it certainly pays homage to him. But whilst a wonderful, innocent movie it just lacks that special something to make it feel great and more than just a homage to Capra.