Although not talked about much today, 1998’s The Truman Show was a huge success for Jim Carrey and all involved. The film was adored by critics and the box office returns on the film were extraordinary for a film of this type. The film was unique for a Carrey vehicle in that it allowed him to exhibit his usual style of humor, but he was also allowed to play a different character type with the added paranoia and dramatic elements. Without a doubt, The Truman Show led to Carrey’s later more dramatic outings like The Majestic and even Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, although he’s rarely visited the type of role in The Truman Show since.
He’s the star of the show–but he doesn’t know. Jim Carrey wowed critics and audiences alike as unwitting Truman Burbank in this marvel of a movie from director Peter Weir (Witness, Dead Poets Society) about a man whose life is a nonstop TV show. Truman doesn’t realize that his quaint hometown is a giant studio set run by a visionary producer/director/creator (Ed Harris), that folks living and working there are Hollywood actors, that even his incessantly bubbly wife is a contract player. Gradually, Truman gets wise. And what he does about his discovery will have you laughing, crying and cheering like few film stories ever have.
Back when I was younger, I was obsessed with Jim Carrey for one reason and one reason only: he was in Batman Forever. I was the type of kid who wanted to see everything the actors were in that were even associated with Batman, but unfortunately the majority of Carrey’s movies were in the PG-13 age range and growing up with the strict age rules in the house meant I wasn’t allowed to see many of his films that were out around the time of Batman Forever. Although The Truman Show arrived three years after his role as Riddler, I still kept my fascination with the man and was ecstatic to see a PG rated Carrey film. Although it wasn’t something I saw in the theater, I did eventually see it on VHS and I was incredibly disappointed by it. Sure it had Carrey acting like his zany self on occasion, but for the most part I just didn’t understand the material and by the third act when Carrey all but disappeared from the film for about 10 or 20 minutes, I gave up on it.
If I could walk up to my eleven year old self now I’d smack myself in the back of the head, as I just watched this film again for the first time in ten years and it is honestly one of the best films I’ve ever seen. There is so much packed into this film that is absolutely amazing to me, although there’s no way I would’ve picked up on this stuff when I was younger. The camera trickery in the film, the placement of objects, the coy looks to the camera from some of the “cast” members of Truman’s world…it was all just so well done that I was blown away by how rich this world was in this film.
Just as I was really getting into Truman’s world, we become introduced to the “real” world and see where they control everything in his home town. While it’s a bit hard to swallow that something like this could really be done, even with today’s technology, the quality of everything in the film was absolutely amazing. The sets that controlled everything and even the role of the puppet master, played by Ed Harris, are just a wonderful contrast to Truman’s world. On top of that the product placement in the film was absolutely hilarious, especially the cocoa bit that had Truman wondering what the hell was going on.
The real joy from the film, however, stems from Truman’s slow pick up on where he is living may not be entirely real. From the opening camera falling to the ground to the radio transmitting his every movement, the pacing and development of the story in this film is pitch perfect. I didn’t think I would enjoy this film so much as I did and I became immediately wrapped up in everything in Truman’s world. I even became rather disappointed when the film ended, since it felt like there was still so much to tell. On top of that I could’ve sworn I remembered a scene where Truman and Sylvia (Natascha McElhone) reunited, but I guess I’m just misremembering things.
I definitely didn’t appreciate it when I was 11, but then again…how could I have? This isn’t the type of film that you can enjoy at any age, despite its PG rating. While there’s nothing truly objectionable in this film in terms of content, the themes that it plays with are way beyond what anyone could really comprehend unless they reach a certain age. It also helps to have an awareness of the media, as this film remains relevant even today with the world’s need to know everything about everyone. He ending to the film is absolutely perfect: once Truman leaves his world, those watching it simply change over to something else. I’m sure there’s another paragraph or two in there about how lazy our society is, but I’ll leave that for someone else to write.
The Truman Show is, without a doubt, one of my new “favorite” films. I honestly had no idea how great this film was I’m glad I was given the chance to revisit it after all of these years…otherwise I would’ve just kept listening to my younger self. Of course not everything I enjoyed back then is truly wonderful now either…I’m sure I could fill several pages worth of choice comments about my feelings towards some of my childhood “favorites.” In case you haven’t figured it out by now, this film comes Highly Recommended. It’s definitely not Carrey’s usual outing, and if you aren’t ready to see his brilliant performance in Eternal Sunshine, this one may ease the way.
Paramount continues to offer a $10 bonus for anyone upgrading to their new Blu-ray editions, so immediately there’s incentive to upgrade to this edition. This film ports over all the great extras from the previous “Special Edition” release, so those who are thinking of upgrading to this edition need not worry about anything left off. Of course there’s also nothing new, so that’s a bit of a downer at the same time. Inserts for this film include the previously mentioned $10 rebate and a notice about upgrading your players firmware; disc art is the usual grey wash and menus are static, although it brings back a similar layout to the original non-SE DVD release menu, which is slightly more friendly to navigate than the SE release, which is a bit tedious on the eyes (from the images I’ve seen online, at least).
Visually the bright colors and cinematography of this film still pop as they did in the SE release, but now with a full 1080p AVC encoded 1.85:1 image to play with, the colors are even more vibrant and astonishing. I’ve no doubt that viewing it in HD aided my enjoyment of the film, as not only did I previously only see this film on VHS but it was also in full screen, so none of the POV and fisheye type camera shots really made any sense to me considering the faded cornering wasn’t even seen on VHS. So watching this film in HD was like a whole other experience and between the dark and cold visuals of the real world when compared to the cheery tones of Truman’s world, it was just a great transfer to look at. The forest chase scene looked amazing in particular, as did the sudden sun rise in the town, which quickly blew out the dark tones that were previously occupying the screen.
From an audio standpoint the film isn’t quite so amazing, simply because there isn’t much here to bother with when it comes to the surrounds and bass. Obviously the storm sequences were fully utilized in both the surrounds and subwoofer, but overall the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track does what we want it to do best: bring this dialogue heavy film to the center stage with crystal clear audio. Also included in the audio department is a French and Spanish DD5.1 track as well as English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.
Extras are a great deal more expansive than I’d expected and although they all hail from the 2005 SE DVD release, they’re still well worth checking out. The first featurette is How’s It Going to End? The Making of the Truman Show (41:47) which delves into the making of the film with cast and crew interviews. What’s great about these features are they’re all retrospective so there’s no real forced need for it to be overly fluff in nature and we again get a truthful feeling piece in Faux Finishing: The Visual Effects of The Truman Show (13:16). Also included are an array of Deleted Scenes (13:09) and a Photo Gallery, all of which is in SD. The only HD piece are the two Theatrical Trailers (4:29).
Overall this is a solid release, although aside from the bump in visual and audio, there aren’t any other goodies to check out here. Still, the film is such a visual delight that it is quite remarkable looking in HD, so if you enjoyed the film as much as I did it may be worth to trade up for the new release (especially because of the $10 rebate). Highly Recommended.
The Truman Show arrives on Blu-ray on December 30th.