Directed by Frank Darabont, starring Jim Carrey, Laurie Holden, Martin Landau, David Ogden Stiers, Ron Rifkin, Allen Garfield and Bob Balaban.

If there's such a thing as "difficult third feature film" syndrome, then director Frank Darabont has been struck down with a particularly vicious case. Having melted the most hardened cynic's heart with the majestic (pun intended) 'Shawshank Redemption' in 1994, and consolidated with the admirable if overlong 'The Green Mile' in 1999, Darabont now seems to have come a cropper. In short, 'The Majestic' is limp, lifeless stuff.

It's 1951, and Peter Appleton (Carrey) is an up-and-coming screenwriter with HHS studios. Dreaming of becoming an A-list screen scribe, and encouraged by the studio's faith in his ability, Appleton's Hollywood future looks promising. And with his latest endeavour, 'Sand Pirates Of The Sahara' a hit with the punters, and he himself a hit with the female lead, life is sweet. But this is 1950s Hollywood, where government-inspired anti-Communist paranoia is taking an increasing stranglehold on the politics of the film fraternity.

Named as a possible communist sympathiser, Appleton's world instantly crumbles. Jettisoned by the studio and his girlfriend, the writer takes refuge, in time honoured fashion, in that little demon called drink. Inebriated beyond the realms of safety, Appleton hits the road in an effort to leave all of his mounting problems behind. In predictably stormy conditions, he loses control of the car and is swept into a river. The end of Peter Appleton? Well, yes and no.

Regaining consciousness in a place he's never seen before, Appleton is rescued by an elderly pawnbroker on a morning stroll. It turns out he has been washed up in the small, close-knit town of Lawson. But Appleton now has no memory of who he is or where he has come from. He becomes further confused when the townsfolk claim him as long-lost Luke Trimble, missing since the end of WWII. Suddenly, Appleton/Trimble is a son to the town's cinema-owner Harry (Landau), boyfriend to local gal Adele (Holden), and the personification of benevolent fate to everyone else. Soon, however, his previous life inevitably catches up with him.

Faithfully replicating the sights and sounds of 1950s America, 'The Majestic' is ultimately ruined by a shroud of sickening sentimentalism. Indeed, if this film were confectionery, it would rot every tooth in your head and leave you with a sickening stomach cramp. And no, it wouldn't taste good. The film's narrative, besides from the fact that it's criminally protracted (152 mins), never finds a solid rhythm, stuttering and staggering to its drippy denouement.

It also features overly emotional performances from most of the cast, except, ironically, Jim Carrey. Long dismissed as the second coming of Jerry Lewis, Carrey has shown in recent performances ('The Truman Show', 'Man On The Moon') that he's capable of much more than the comedy buffoon stereotype. Here, he gives a solidly restrained performance – a nicely judged mix of bewilderment and isolation. In the end however, even Carrey drowns in the treacle.

Tom Grealis