The Truman Show review by Mike Long

While there are many people who claim the ability to see the future, we've been getting accurate prognostication from the movies for decades. While those low-budget 50s sci-fi movies may have featured some way-out ideas, like flying cars, many of them came true. (Unfortunately, the flying car wasn't one of them.) More recently, films dealing with high tech subjects such as surveillance or genetics have found their counterparts in real life. But, the most prophetic film in the past decade has to be The Truman Show. The movie brought us the seemingly outlandish idea of reality television just two years before Survivor changed the face of entertainment forever. Now, Peter Weir's modern-masterpiece is available in a new special edition DVD.

The Truman Show is about a television show which features the life of one Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey). The show is on 24-hours a day, 7 days a week and has followed Truman through his entire life. The odd thing is that Truman has no idea that he's on TV, or that he's living in an artificial world. The entire show is produced in an man-made island town, and due to the fact that Truman is deathly afraid of water (because of a traumatic incident in his childhood), he never tries to leave. So, Truman spends his days working in an insurance agency, and his free time with his wife, Meryl (Laura Linney), or his best friend, Marlon (Noah Emmerich). The events watched over by show creator Christof (Ed Harris), who adds elements to the show to make Truman's life interesting.

But, all is not well in Truman's world. Due to a one-time encounter with an extra (Natascha McElhone), Truman has often thought of living his tranquil life. This increased wanderlust coincides with some bizarre events which make Truman wonder what's going on around him. As these events escalate, Truman becomes convinced that he's being watched and decides that leaving the town of Seahaven is the only answer.

Watching The Truman Show only seven years after its initial release, it's amazing to see just how ahead of its time that it was. When the film premiered, the idea of watching a TV show featuring real people seemed ludicrous and the idea that it would become a worldwide phenomenon bordered on paranoid science fiction. Yet, here we are, several Survivor's and American Idol's later, and the notion of a obsession-inducing reality show doesn't seem far-fetched at all. Despite the fact that Truman is being filmed in secret and is essentially a prisoner, the good-natured tone of the show seems angelic compared to insane programs such as Fear Factor. It's not unusual for something imagined in a fiction film of the past to be true today, but rarely has a film become so true as quickly as The Truman Show.

The show's prophetic qualities are only one aspect of a film that impresses on nearly every front. The creative script by writer Andrew Niccol was punched up by director Peter Weir, creating a nearly seamless story and a perfect blend of comedic aspects coupled with mounting tension and drama. Being a Jim Carrey film, there are some funny moments in the movie, but the story really focuses on a man who is living a lie and slowly beginning to realize that. Instead of filming this as a movie about a TV show, Weir made the ingenious decision to shoot the bulk of The Truman Show as the TV show, so we get many odd camera angles as the thousands of tiny cameras which surround Truman capture his every move. The film's production design is also impressive, as the town of Seahaven (which is a real city in Florida) is dazzles us with its unabashed pastel colors and perfectly designed houses.

While all of these attributes help make The Truman Show great, the most outstanding piece to consider is the performance of Jim Carrey. This was the funny man's first foray in a starring dramatic role and he pulls it off quite well. Truman is a charming and naturally likable guy, so Carrey's wit works there, but when Truman is brooding or angry, Carrey is able to make those parts of the film just as believable. Laura Linney matches Carrey every step of the way as an actress playing the all-encompassing role of a wife to a man who doesn't know that he's on TV. Noah Emmerich gives the best performance of his career as Marlon, the friend who's job it is to keep Truman happy and to match his mood. The always impressive Ed Harris is great as Christof, a seemingly nice man who is consumed by his desire to keep the show alive.

The Truman Show is a truly unique film in that it combines many genres -- comedy, drama, science-fiction -- and remains a satisfying cohesive film. The only problem that I have with the movie is that it left me wanting more, as I wanted to learn what went on behind-the-scenes at the show. The Truman Show is just as entertaining today as it was upon its release, but given the rise of reality TV, it feels like a much more important movie.

The Truman Show brings TV to DVD in a new Special Edition release courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at about 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The picture looks fairly good as the image is sharp, but there is some notable grain, and the picture is somewhat soft at times. The colors however, are very good and the bright, dominant hues of Seahaven look good here. There is some mild ghosting at times, but the on-screen movement appears fine for the most part. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which serves the movie quite well. The dialogue is always clear and audible, with no distortion. Philip Glass' score sounds fine and the musical cues fill the surround channels. There's not a great deal of subwoofer action here, save for the finale, but the stereo and surround effects are fine.

This new Special Edition DVD replaces the previous barebones edition from Paramount and contains several nice extras. We start with a 2-part documentary entitled "How's It Going to End? The Making of The Truman Show". Part 1 (18 minutes), deals with the origins of the script and how Weir and his crew molded it into the film we have today. The segment also examines most of the key characters. It includes many comments from Weir, as well as some quotes from Linney, Emmerich and Harris. Unfortunately, Jim Carrey appears only in old press junket footage. Part 2 (23 minutes) explores the actual making of the film, as it gives insight into how the location was found and enhanced and the creative ways in which the film was shot. This part also looks as the Christof character. "Faux Finishing, the Visual Effects of The Truman Show" (13 minutes) features visuals effects supervisors Craig Barron and Michael McAlister who discuss the subtle way in which digital effects and matte paintings were used to enhanced Truman's world. The DVD contains four deleted scenes which comprise 13 minutes of footage. Here we get more product placement footage, a nice scene in which Truman gets another clue as to what is happening, and a great cast meeting. The extras are rounded out by a Photo Gallery, the Teaser Trailer, the Theatrical Trailer, and two TV spots.

9 out of 10 Jackasses

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