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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

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Review by Susan Granger
4 stars out of 4

If you can envision a surreal combination of "Alice in Wonderland," "Wizard of Oz," and "The Stepford Wives," you've arrived in "Pleasantville," a fictional black-and-white town where everything is just about perfect. Like "The Truman Show." And just imagine what would happen if two contemporary teenagers suddenly arrived. Like "Back to the Future." In this daring modern fairy tale, "once upon a time" involves Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon - fraternal twins - who, after their parents' divorce, are having a pretty miserable time. Suddenly, courtesy of a mysterious TV repair man (Don Knotts), they find themselves trapped in a 1958 sit-com where Mom (Joan Allen) wears pearls, bouffant hair, high heels, and a pretty dress as she's cooking a "nourishing" breakfast of blueberry pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon, and ham steak every morning, and Dad (William H. Macy) arrives from work every night at the same time, hangs up his hat, and shouts, "Honey, I'm home." The kids hang out at Mr. Johnson's (Jeff Daniels) Soda Shoppe and the school basketball team always wins. Tobey quickly realizes that their presence in this kinder, gentler time could alter reality, so he tries to stick to the script but Reese, wailing about "nerdville," just wants to have fun. Inevitably, they introduce "dangerous" elements like sensuality, diversity, and possibility into the staid '50s sensibility. Writer Gary Ross ("Big," "Dave") creates a wildly imaginative concept and, in his directing debut, transforms his black-and-white world into multi-colored magic as the chaotic, discordant '60s arrives, complete with its requisite rock music. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Pleasantville" is an astonishing, intriguing, irresistible 10. This is a "must see" - one of the best of the year!

Copyright 2000 Susan Granger

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