David Wagner (Tobey Maquire) seems like the kind of teenager I used to be back in the 90s, that being a teenager obsessed with the past and especially the culture of bygone eras, in his case the 1950s, opting to spend hours in front of the TV watching old reruns instead of engaging in the shallow culture he finds outside.
Only instead of Andy Griffith or I Love Lucy he is addicted to reruns of a classic TV show called “Pleasantville,” set in a much simpler place and time where everyone adheres to the rules of 1950s TV sitcoms—dinner is always served at 6pm on the dot, it never rains, and everyone is always polite to a fault.
One day David and his sister wind up living in said TV show after a visit from local TV repairman played by Don Knotts.
The people in this fictional town are forever altered by his presence in the town as new ideas begin to spread—books are discovered to be more than just props, and other discoveries in art and sexuality are made as well. All of this leads the black and white community to slowly start changing into color.
This is a very creative and soulful movie—by the same writer who brought us “Big” starring Tom Hanks playing a child trapped in a man’s body, whereas here we have two teenagers stuck in an alternative universe.In any event, this is a universe that David knows well, being a TV junkie.
His sister Jennifer, played by Reese Witherspoon isn’t so lucky.
This movie is a great mix of social satire and just plain movie magic. There’s a host of great performances from the two leads as well as William H. Macy, Jeff Daniels, and too many more to mention in this brief review. This movie is a modern day parable that reevaluates America’s “Golden Age” of the 1950s while also paying homage to it at the same time.