With its potentially mind-boggling plot and structure, The Truman Show may be the most unconventional big Hollywood movie to be released in several years. While that's notable in itself, and a testament to what star power as considerable as Jim Carrey's can achieve, the film is unfortunately about little more than its potentially mind-boggling plot and structure. Carrey plays the Truman of the title, a man whose entire life, unbeknownst to him, has been spent as the protagonist of a television show. Although he thinks he lives in a pristine island community, Carrey actually lives in a bubble next to the Hollywood sign in which everything that happens is planned in advance to give drama to his existence and drive up ratings. The whole thing is orchestrated by the show's creator (Ed Harris), who looks down, godlike, upon the proceedings. For the first half or so, almost all of The Truman Show is told from Carrey's limited perspective, and his slow discovery of the artificiality of his surroundings—in which everything is prefabricated to facilitate contentment, fear, drama, and product placement—makes for compelling viewing. If nothing else, it allows for the appreciation of the cleverness of the film's set-up. But that's it. Not that there's not more to appreciate about The Truman Show: Carrey again shows that he can stretch by playing a role more dramatic than comedic. His work here is good enough to almost disguise that there's not much to his character, that Truman is little more a device upon which to hang the film's high concept, a Skinner child for the satellite-dish era. And while that concept could have given director Peter Weir and writer Andrew Niccol a chance to explore notions about corporate America, religion, and the way entertainment and reality interact, The Truman Show seems content merely to be an elaborate puzzlebox. Weir keeps things fairly entertaining, and is admirably not afraid to veer more toward drama than comedy, but his film, like the world it portrays, is all surface.
More from The A.V. Club