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IN SHORT: Almost just ain't good enough
"Let the ticket buying public decide!" was the challenge an angry Kevin Costner made to the critical community last week, after word circulated that reviews by those who had advance looks at The Postman, were sharpening their knives. Granted, Costner has been with it before. Dances With Wolves was savaged and received 7 academy awards. Waterworld racked up ticket sales just shy of 300 million bucks. As for The Postman, which Cranky saw three days ago in a sneak preview, he almost pulled off the hat trick.
Two hours into this three hour would be epic, Cranky thought to himself that it wasn't all that bad. Hour three flushed it all down the toilet. The "ticket buying public" were laughing at the screen well before the credits rolled. There was booing and hissing and more than one person told Cranky that (he) was glad the free preview didn't cost them the price of a ticket.
It's sad, really. There are times in the first two hours where the hodgepodge of post-apocalyptic and western images mix crazily with a symbolic respect for the often dissed postal employee. It's all a scam to the unnamed drifter played by Costner, who wanders across the Northwest of what once was the United States bartering Shakespeare performances (opposite his mule, named Bill) for food and shelter.
There was a war, there was a plague, there was a three year long winter -- the future isn't a nice place to live, but it sure looks great. Very environmentally friendly, very post Civil War. People ride horses and no one has electricity anymore. The countryside is under the grip of an army of Holnists, a military group just shy of Nazi, led by General Bethlehem (Will Patton). This group terrorizes the country, taking what they want and conscripting healthy white males to stock their ranks. This conscription includes the drifter and his mule which sets up the conflict that plays out over the next couple of hours.
Escaping the Holnists, the drifter finds a uniform and a sack of mail and figures that he can use the find to get food and shelter as he reverts to his drifting ways. The scam will get the "postman" into bed with a fine lass named and future love interest named Abby (Olivia Williams) - - "It's the uniform," says the postman. It will inspire a young man calling himself Ford Lincoln Mercury (Larenz Tate) -- "I took the name 'cuz I want drive a car," says he -- and Ford will inspire dozens of others to carry the leather sack. So far so good.
The Postman moves across the West, from the Salt Flats in Utah, to the mountains of Oregon. It looks like a John Ford flick without the ritual camera pass through Monument Valley. At times it also looks like one of those "trapped in the mountains in the winter" movies or a recreation of some Civil War epic.
At every point that The Postman starts to feel like it's running long, something happens to spark your interest again. For the first two hours The Postman walks the very fine line between self-deprecating comedy and epic tale. In hour three, just about the time Tom Petty shows up as Mayor of a town that hangs off the wall of a dam ("I know you. You used to be famous," says the Postman) it all starts to slide downhill into painfully scripted cliche.
Whereas "I want to be a Postman" was an inspired cry of the future kidlets in the film, the audience Cranky sat with was yelling it back at the screen, derisively. And that was happening a good half hour before the thing ended.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Postman, he would have paid . . .
Buck an hour. See it on big screen solely for the cinematographic sights.
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