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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Pleasantville

Starring: Tobey Maguire, Jeff Daniels
Director: Gary Ross
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 116 Minutes
Release Date: October 1998
Genres: Comedy, Sci-Fi/Fantasy

*Also starring: Joan Allen, William H. Macy, J.T. Walsh, Reese Witherspoon, Don Knotts, Jane Kaczmarek

Review by MrBrown
3½ stars out of 4

Thanks to a magical remote control, '90s fraternal twin siblings David (Tobey Maguire) and Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon) get sucked into the wholesome, black-and-white, 1950s TV sitcom world of Pleasantville. It's a gimmicky premise, one that would appear to set the stage for a too-cute-for-its-own-good film. But writer-director Gary Ross uses the gimmick as the springboard for a wildly clever fable of self-discovery in which the two teens' contemporary sensibilities break the citizens of Pleasantville from their antiquated bonds of repression. Spiritual awakening is not without its side effects, most visibly being a part-by-part transformation from drab duotones to vibrant Technicolor--which leads to a sly (and most unexpected) satire of racial politics.

The beauty of _Pleasantville_ is while it tackles some issues that are high-minded, the film itself is not. Ross has his cake and eats it too, being socially relevant without being preachy, never once forgetting the film's duty to the audience is to entertain--and that it does. The script is as funny as it is wholly original, and it is filled with memorable characters, such as the seemingly happy marrieds George (William H. Macy) and Betty Parker (Joan Allen) and timid malt shop owner Mr. Johnson (Jeff Daniels). If the script has a shortcoming, it is that the arcs of the two main characters, '50s-loving David and wild '90s girl Jennifer, are rather predictable. The one element of _Pleasantville_ that is perhaps attracting the most attention is the special effects wizardry used to mix black and white with color; while the resulting visuals are stunning, what makes the effects work all the more impressive is how they are used to support story ideas rather than to serve as gratuitous eye candy.

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