Every now and then, a film comes along that I really think is something special, but for whatever reason, the movie-going public doesn’t agree. For me, The Truman Show is one of those films. Maybe it was because this was Jim Carrey’s first serious role. Maybe it was because it felt too gimmicky with the popularity of The Real World at the time, and being released around the same time as the similarly-themed film EdTV. Maybe it was because the premise was just a little too far outside of the norma… summer box office fare.
The fact is, the reasons that I like this movie are pretty similar to the reasons that others may not have. Jim Carrey was simply fantastic in this film, and his bold performance proved my theory that it is much more difficult to be a great comedic actor than most people believe. Carrey was handed the unenviable task of being made to carry a film that was about a lot of things at once. This is a film about big government. About secrets and lies, what it means to love someone and discovering who we are as humans. This is a film about limits, about control, and about the media. It’s about knowing what to believe, what not to believe, and how to tell the two apart. It is about the importance of being the same person at work, in the home and everywhere in between.
Upon watching this film again, I am also struck by the work of Peter Weir, and for the life of me I can’t figure out why he hasn’t become one of the few select directors who are a household name in middle America, like Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard. Every film that he directs is unique and powerful, and they all draw the viewer into the world created on film. Films like Witness, Dead Poet’s Society and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World have taken up permanent residence in the minds of film fans everywhere, and The Truman Show deserves to be included in that list.
The Truman Show is a genre-bending film that marked the beginning of a welcome trend in Hollywood. I have to believe that without this film, we would not have gotten to experience such Carrey films as Man on the Moon and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Kudos to Weir for seeing through the comedic Mask that Carrey wears so well to see the brilliant actor hiding inside. Kudos to Carrey for wanting to develop as an actor and daring to take the kinds of risks that produce artistic greatness.
The audio track on this disc is good, but not great. Every sound that should be heard is present, but it just doesn’t have the dynamic impact that I was expecting from a Dolby Digital soundtrack. The track lacks a certain punch that viewers have come to expect from big budget films. There is, however, some great use of surrounds, especially when the sudden rainstorm hits Truman on the beach. As the rain slowly develops into a full-on storm on the screen, the audio of the storm slowly creeps around the room and envelops the listener.
For those of you with widescreen displays, the good news is that this is one of those great discs that is perfectly formated to fill your screen with no black bars at the top or bottom. The better news is, the picture on this disc is sharp and clear for owners of standard size displays as well. Black levels are deep, and colors are bright and accurate. Grain is virtually nonexistent, as is the case with blemishes. I never saw the previous release of this film, so I can’t comment on any improvement, but I can say that the transfer on this version is absolutely first rate.
The extras start off with an assortment of trailers for products such as Airplane, Tommy Boy and the like, as well as the teaser and theatrical trailers for our feature presentation. There are also two TV spots for The Truman Show, and the token photo gallery. Also included are four unfinished deleted/extended scenes that are mildly amusing and considerable in length, but don’t really add much to the story.
The big extras start off with a featurette called Faux Finishing: The Visual Effects of The Truman Show. This 13-minute extra, presented in a widescreen format, goes beyond what most people think of as visual effects, and includes color correction, set design and other little corrections that make the “sets” that Truman lives in seem not quite real. This is a well-produced extra that is actually much more interesting than it sounds.
Finally, there is a two part documentary called, appropriately enough, The Making of The Truman Show. Part One of the doc covers the origins of the film and everything leading up to the shoot, and Part Two is more about the filming itself. The two parts, when viewed together, run about 40-minutes in length, which makes me wonder why the documentary is presented in two parts at all. It is an extremely well produced piece, presented in a widescreen format, that is really the kind of quality documentary extra that should be held up as a benchmark for other DVDs in the future.
Maybe there aren’t a lot of extras on this disc, but they are clearly of the utmost quality.
By this point, my admiration for The Truman Show should be clear. This is a groundbreaking film that was nominated for three Academy Awards, but inexplicably didn’t win any. Though it is no excuse, my only assumption can be that the members of the Academy didn’t heap enough praise on this film because it was so different and new that they simply didn’t know what to do with it. However, it is the film that opened the door for many unique and original films to a broad audience. It is my sincere hope that years from now, The Truman Show will be recognized as the beautiful and important film that it is. This quality DVD should go a long way to realizing that hope.
Special Features List
- Two-Part Documentary: The Making of The Truman Show
- Faux Finishing: The Visual Effects of The Truman Show
- Four Deleted/Extended Scenes
- Photo Gallery
- Two Theatrical Trailers
- Two TV Spots