Movie trailers are really amazing. They can make even the most inane piece of crap look interesting enough for some chap to plop down their hard-earned money and see a movie. Why am I mentioning this? I can recall seeing the trailer for “Pleasantville” about 13 years ago while watching a *gasp* VHS movie. For the life of me, I can’t recall the actual movie that I was watching but I remember absolutely loving the trailer for this upcoming movie called “Pleasantville.” As I mentioned, that’s been some time ago (hell, I was still in college) and the movie has come and gone. But with its launch on Blu-ray I was immediately reminded of this movie, it’s stellar cast (more on that later) and of course the not so powerful theme of the whole thing.
We meet David (Tobey Maguire) and Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon), feuding siblings who are given a magical remote control by an eerie technician (the late, great Don Knotts). As fate would have it, the remote literally zaps them into the world of “Pleasantville”, a black and white world right out of “Leave it to Beaver.” There are no toilets, no double beds or nothing else that we’re so used to. Quite simply, this is their world now and though they’ve knowledge of the real world, it just won’t fly here. David embraces this new world while Jennifer can’t stand it. She seeks out local jock Skip (Paul Walker) and attempts to corrupt him. Jennifer’s antics have somewhat of a ripple effect in the town as we see, well, color. This is where the movie kind of hits a snag but as we see the awakenings of the townsfolk, it’s clear that there’s some pent up repression. This begs the question, though, will David and Jennifer make it out of Pleasantville or will they be doomed to live there forever?
Looking back a dozen years later, it’s clear that “Pleasantville” is still a good movie. I don’t think it will (or has) go down in the pantheon of landmark films, but it’s entertaining – no doubt about it. The casting was great as this was before Reese Witherspoon won an Oscar, before Tobey Maguire was “Spider-Man” and before Paul Walker did the “Fast and the Furious” movies. Writer/Director Gary Ross went onto helm “Seabiscuit” which was nominated for Best Picture a few years back. The ensemble cast also includes Jeff Daniels, William H. Macy, J.T. Walsh and Joan Allen.
Video: How does it look?
“Pleasantville” is shown in a 1.85:1 VC-1 HD transfer that looks amazing. As anyone whose seen the movie can attest, color (or lack thereof) plays a significant part in the movie. The black and white sequences really show off the power of Blu-ray and this color combination is so rare these days that it’s easy to forget how unique the black and white can really look. Naturally this goes hand in hand with the contrast as well as the overall black levels. Reese Witherspoon’s character says it best “I’m pasty!” As the color starts to emerge, we see and notice the different hues and shades of red, yellow and brown. It’s a transition that really makes the film work, visually-speaking.
Audio: How does it sound?
The DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack is adequate, but certainly nothing that will test the limits of your system. Randy Newman’s score is somewhat engaging, but the majority of the film is dialogue-driven. The rear surrounds are there, though they’re somewhat disengaged during the film and while the front stage tackles most of the action, there are a few notable moments. The soundtrack, at best, is just a bit above average. Still, this is certainly the best this movie has sounded, though it’s hard to detect anything notable from the original Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack found on the standard DVD.
Supplements: What are the extras?
We don’t get any new material here as it’s all ported over from New Line’s “Platinum Series” standard DVD. The same commentary track by Gary Ross is there and as engaging as it is, does sound a bit dated. I can only imagine what he’d have to say about his three child stars now. There’s an isolated score with some commentary by Newman as well as the same featurette “The Art of Pleasantville.” Fiona Apple’s (remember her) music video “Across the Universe” is present as is the original theatrical trailer. Ironic that I end this review with the same subject that I started with.