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December 24, 2001
The Majestic flop
Arthur J Pais
Jim Carrey won't be laughing to the bank this month. Or even wearing a tiny smile.
For The Majestic, a film he had expected a lot from, has not only failed to live up to its name but has also become the most embarrassing flops of the season.
The $60 million film that grossed about $5 million last weekend, might end its run with just about $15 million. It is number eight at this week's box office chart.
Even the $8 million silly comedy, Not Another Teen Movie grossed in its second weekend half a million dollars more than The Majestic.
The box office chart was led by The Lord Of The Rings, which grossed $45 million last weekend. The film, which opened on Wednesday to glowing reviews, has grossed $73 million in the first five days.
Carrey, whose Dr Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas grossed about $260 million in America last year, was clearly expecting a big hit this time too. The Grinch, though a small success abroad with an $80 million gross, was America's highest grossing film last year.
The Majestic is sure to set a record for the lowest grossing star-driven film of the year 2000.
Carrey plays an amnesiac 1950s screenwriter stranded in a small town unaware that he is being wanted in a communist witch-hunt.
Most critics slammed the film, with The Wall Street Journal calling it "definitely the worst big movie of the year". CNN reviewer Paul Clinton liked the film but faulted it for being too sentimental.
"Ultimately, this movie is so sappy, every maple tree in the country will be green with envy," he says. "Some people may find the film a healing balm. A shot in the arm of good old-fashioned American values."
The People magazine states that the "film comes so heavily sugar-dusted, you need to brush yourself off upon leaving the theater."
But not every critic was put off by the film. Roger Ebert of Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three and half stars (out of four). He says, "The film is a proud patriotic hymn to America, sung in a key that may make some viewers uncomfortable. At a time when our leaders are prepared to hold trials that bypass the American justice system, here is a film that unapologetically supports the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. It is set in the early 1950s, but the parallels with today are unmistakable and frightening."
But he hastens to tell his readers that politics is not the mainstay of the film. "Yet this is not a sober political picture. It's a sweet romantic comedy..."
Carrey, whose comedy hits include Liar Liar and Ace Ventura has failed in his serious films like Man On The Moon. With the multiple Oscar nominated The Truman Show as an exception. Unfortunately, the $260 million film did not get an Oscar nomination for Carrey.
The failure of The Majestic is also a setback for director Frank Darabont, who made an impressive debut seven years ago with the prison drama, The Shawshank Redemption and then consolidated his reputation with the Tom Hanks starrer The Green Mile. The latter earned nearly $300 million worldwide.
The failure sounds tragic especially because Carrey had actively sought the role. In the film's production notes, he says that the story had a lot of complexities and that is why he was drawn to it.
It's a story about what it takes to be a man," says the actor. "And what takes to be a hero. What it takes to stand up to be your authentic self in the world. It's also a story about love and the choices you make in life."
Carrey is a great admirer of director Frank Capra's classics like Mr Smith Goes To Town and Mr Smith Goes To Washington, which dealt with the rights and dignity of the common man. Carrey says he loves the work of Jimmy Stewart in those flicks.
About his role in The Majestic, Carrey says, "I have never done anything like this before, not even in The Truman Show. I always look for new roles -- I never repeat myself. And this character was a blast, something fresh and new."
The audiences clearly thought otherwise.
Carrey, who recently said he is not interested in doing sequels to his hit films like Liar Liar may be reconsidering his decision. But he certainly won't fire his agent. After all, it was he who wanted to be in The Majestic.
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