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Mr. Smith Goes to Ferndale

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*The Majestic (PG)
Warner Brothers

Jim Carrey stars as Hollywood screenwriter Peter Appleton in this Capra-esque tribute to the golden days of Hollywood with a twist.

Just as Pete's first film, Sand Pirates of the Sahara, hits the big screen, he is tagged by the House Un-American Activities Committee as a Communist sympathizer. Pete drowns his sorrows in a local bar, then drives down the coast where a near disastrous auto mishap, a bang on the head, a bout of amnesia and a small town's collective longing for the return of a local hero conspire to create for him a new life. The people of the scenic town of Lawson (actually the northern California village Ferndale) open their arms to Pete, believing that he is Luke Trimble, a local war hero reported missing in action 9 1/2 years ago.

Martin Landau delivers a transcendent performance as Harry, Luke's father and owner of the dilapidated Majestic theater, which Pete helps restore. Laurie Holden, in her feature film debut, smolders as Pete/Luke's smart, liberated girlfriend Adele.

Carrey was born for this role. His Pete is an Everyman for the books -- a shallow guy who discovers love, loyalty and conviction in the search for his former self. Like all of director Frank Darabont's films (Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile), The Majestic is too long by about 45 minutes. That said, it's a compelling, heartwarming piece of true Americana, complete with a welcome warning against over-zealous government intervention, the timeliness of which the screenwriter couldn't possibly have predicted. The faces in this film, especially Landau's, will stay with you long after the theater lights go up.

-- Kathryn Eastburn

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