Reviewed November 25th, 1999 by Staff
Pleasantville is a fabulous DVD of a great film. The only problem is that the film takes itself a little too seriously. Pleasantville is the setting of a “Leave it to Beaver” type show, into which our hero and his sister get magically transported. We have gritty 90's kids in a television 50's world. Everything is suddenly black and white. Our heroes bring about a change in the T.V. town, helping the inhabitants to become real people. As a result, the converted become colorized. This effect is beautiful and put to great use. There are some genuinely hilarious fish out of water moments to boot. Pleasantville smacks of a film which grew out of a special effect. If writer/director/producer Gary Ross hadn't forgotten that, it would have been a much better film.
The problem with Pleasantville is that it tries to be much more than it is. Ross thinks he's a genius for taking two dimensional characters and showing the problems associated with complicating their world. This is nothing new, as Shakespeare did the same thing 500 years ago. Most problematic is the “No Colored” business when the still black and white characters lash out at the colorized ones. Given the mostly light fare of the film, the civil rights reference fails, and is in poor taste. If you want to hear about how much of a genius Ross thinks he is, just listen to the commentary track. Without a shred of modesty, the would-be autour rambles and preaches endlessly.
For the most part, Pleasantville is fun, and filled with great performances.
The DVD looks very good. The 1.85:1, anamorphic transfer really shines. When the colors come into the film, the effect is quite breath taking. The dominant black and white photography also looks very good. Ross shares his clever techniques on the commentary track.
The 5.1 mix is also quite good. There is a thunderstorm in the film which puts the split surrounds to good use.
Pleasantville is loaded with extras. There's the excruciating commentary track, an isolated score, with commentary, a rock video, trailers, languages, etc.
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