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The Postman

movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: The Postman

Starring: Kevin Costner, Will Patton
Director: Kevin Costner
Rated: R
RunTime: 177 Minutes
Release Date: December 1997
Genres: Action, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Drama

*Also starring: Larenz Tate, Olivia Williams, James Russo, Daniel Von Bargen, Tom Petty, Scott Bairstow, Giovanni Ribisi, Peggy Lipton

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewvideo review
2.  Walter Frith read the review movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review
3.  Harvey Karten read the review ---
4.  MrBrown read the review no stars

Review by Steve Rhodes
1½ stars out of 4

Kevin Costner's latest post-apocalyptic epic, THE POSTMAN, asks the rhetorical question: Is a bad, two hour movie made better by expanding it to three?

Pretentious with a capital P, Costner's POSTAL WATERWORLD delivers such cinematic balderdash that it becomes laughably bad at points. Perhaps with the fat pruned, say an hour and a half or so, the movie could be viewed as a delightful parody of the genre, but as delivered, its pomposity makes laughing at it seem somehow inappropriate, sort of like laughing in church when the priest gets tongue-tied.

"The last of the great cities died when my father was a child," says the Postman's daughter in the opening. Costner in his futuristic Western is known only as The Postman. Set in the year 2013, the country formerly known as the United States consists of a series of disconnected and derelict cities. The government, once way back in Washington, is no more, and acting as a feudal lord, General Bethlehem (Will Patton) rules the land, extracting tribute from each hamlet that his army visits.

Like a religious order, the army has its commandments and its rituals. "Work, and you'll be fed," the general, a copy machine salesman before the war, lectures his newly captured recruits. "Fight, and you'll be respected. Die, and you'll be remembered."

A bad Shakespearean actor and a loner, Costner becomes the Postman after finding a bag of undelivered mail. He travels from city to city delivering the mail and making up stories about a non-existent, new President Richard Starkey (sound familiar?), who now rules from the Hubert Humphrey Astrodome in Minneapolis.

With John Bloomfield's costumes making everyone look like inhabitants of a lost Dickensian novel about the American West, you feel like you should feel sorry for these people. With James Newton Howard's melodramatic music and Stephen F. Windon's sweeping cinematography, you know you are supposed to.

Typical of the ridiculous scenes in the movie is one that involves a Shakespearean contest pitting a conscripted Costner against the general. In a world gone mad, the only intellectual left is the megalomaniacal general, who demolishes our hero in the contest, performed to the grunts and applause of the general's bloodthirsty warriors.

One of the best scenes in the movie -- best in the sense that it is so preposterous that ridiculing it seems appropriate -- happens at an outdoor movie. As the animalistic soldiers get their evening entertainment, the projectionist dares to run something other than their favorite, THE SOUND OF MUSIC. Their reaction is swift and vicious as they try to stone him to death.

The movie flouts realism at every turn. When the Postman and his companion, Abby (Olivia Williams), get stuck in a snow bound cabin for the winter to feast on snow and grass, Amy's coiffure stays immaculate. Somewhere in the cabin, Amy seems to have a hidden blow dryer and a make-up bag.

The story's ending, as rival armies of blue and gold take to the field, combines elements of GETTYSBURG and HIGH NOON. I won't give away who wins, but if you can't figure it out, then you may be part of just the target audience Costner's self-indulgent movie needs.

If you're looking for a patriotic postal service movie for Christmas, then this is your picture. Otherwise, in a season with more good movies that we've had all year, go see one of the many excellent ones instead.

THE POSTMAN runs an incredibly long 3:00. It is rated PG-13 for violence, sex, nudity and dope smoking and would be fine for teenagers.

Copyright 1997 Steve Rhodes

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