Bonus Points: DVD Reviews

'The Truman Show': Getting Real

The Truman Show
Jim Carrey stars in "The Truman Show," a film that poked fun at reality TV before most Americans even knew what it was. (Sue Gordon - Paramount Pictures/Reuters)
By Jen Chaney
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 23, 2005; 12:00 AM

"The Truman Show: Special Edition" (List price: $19.99)
Release Date: August 23

Before American television gave birth to "Survivor," "Big Brother," and "The Surreal Life," there was "The Truman Show."

This darkly comic tale about an insurance salesman (Jim Carrey) who realizes he's the unwitting star of a reality show became both a box office and critical success when it was released in 1998. At that time, the storyline seemed inconceivable. One man's entire life -- from his home town to his wife to his best friend -- is nothing but a phony existence dreamed up by Hollywood executives to entertain a privacy-invading public? Not possible.

But fast forward a few years and the plot of "The Truman Show" seems both possible and downright prescient. "It really is a relevant conversation today, if not more relevant than it was eight years ago," says co-star Noah Emmerich during one of the bonus features on the new, special-edition DVD.

It's terrific to see "Truman," one of the best mainstream Hollywood releases of the 1990s, finally receive the special-edition treatment, particularly in light of the extras-lacking version Paramount previously issued. Though the supplemental material on the single disc isn't as abundant as it should be, the DVD does include the two-part documentary "How's It Going to End: The Making of 'The Truman Show'"; four deleted/extended scenes; a featurette on the film's production design; and the industry-standard photo gallery, trailers and TV commercials.

Particularly noteworthy: Part two of the documentary provides an interesting exploration of the film's genesis, including how the film crew turned Seaside, Fla., into a set and how Ed Harris was cast as Christof after the original actor (no one mentions his name, but it was Dennis Hopper) dropped out.

The DVD clearly could have risen to a higher level by including a second disc with more features; say, a commentary track by director Peter Weir, or Jim Carrey outtakes (I have to believe those exist somewhere). As it stands, the movie remains the star of this "Show," and in some ways, that's as it should be. With its on-point satire of our TV nation, materialism and the eerie cuteness of suburban planned communities, revisiting "The Truman Show" is a reminder that some truly great movies are more than timely. They're ahead of their time.

Best Deleted Bonus Point: The third deleted scene, "The Future Cast Meeting," is the only one of the four that isn't merely an extended version of a sequence that remains in this film. In it, Christof reveals his plan to hire a new actress to play Truman's love interest after Truman's "wife" Meryl (Laura Linney) decides to leave the program. The hope is that this new woman will conceive Truman's first child, thereby launching a spinoff of "The Truman Show." A reality show that copies the premise of an existing reality show. Yeah, like that ever happens on TV.

Biggest Bonus Point Oversight: While the principal co-stars -- Linney, Emmerich and Harris -- all appear in recent interviews during the DVD's documentary, the only footage of Carrey discussing his role comes from what appears to be "The Truman Show" press junket back in '98. Given the significance of the film to his career -- it marked his first big-screen dramatic role and his first Golden Globe win -- it's too bad we don't see a more up-to-date sitdown.

Also New on DVD This Week: "Beauty Shop," "The Ring Two" and the fourth season of the dearly departed "Six Feet Under."

If you have feedback about "Bonus Points" or want to suggest a DVD for review, e-mail Jen Chaney.


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