PATIENT: Cast Away

PROFILE: Long movie about a guy who ends up stranded on a tropical island and what happens when he returns. Part Return of Martin Guerre, though not as clear-eyed; part Gilligan's Island, though not as coco-nutty; part Fed-Ex commercial, though not as subtle.

SYMPTOMS: Robert Zemeckis, who made Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Forrest Gump, couldn't decide what he wanted: the triumph-of-the-human-spirit-in-the-wild flick—of the “Would you eat that?” genre—or the you-can-never-go-back, man-out-of-time flick—of the “She's doing who?” genre. He made both. The movie handles and melds the two pretty well, as long as you don't expect some deep exploration from the guy who made Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Forrest Gump. What he didn't meld well is main character Chuck's employment at Fed-Ex, which is presented as so righteous that you wonder if his last name isn't Schweitzer. Chuck says things like “it's the perfect marriage between technology and systems management.” After that, it hardly seems tragic that this geek would lose four years of his life, except that by the time it's over, the movie has taken two and a half hours of yours.

DIAGNOSIS: By the time he was rescued, my ass felt like a monkey's fist.

PRESCRIPTION: Pare it down to two hours. Roll back on all the Fed-Ex-as-Moonie-cult stuff with Fed-Ex employees presented as martyrs who live, we are told, in the “world of time” as opposed to the rest of us who meander about, grooming one another and wondering where the big red ball in the sky has gone. He can still be a Fed Ex employee, just cut out all the technical crap and all the delivering-catalog-merchandise-is-God's-work, and you've shaved 20 minutes easy.

PROGNOSIS: You end up with an enjoyable adventure/romance—easy on the eyes and ass—that gives you Zemeckis' requisite special-effects wizardry and a life-affirming ending to boot. We leave the theater happy, not thinking about how utterly alone we all are, nor about life's random cruelty, the unjust God who would create such a world or that a man who'd been forced to confront this would, in a year's time, likely blow his brains out.

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