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Pleasantville [VHS]

711 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Actors: Tobey Maguire, Jeff Daniels, Joan Allen, Reese Witherspoon, William H. Macy
  • Directors: Gary Ross
  • Writers: Gary Ross
  • Producers: Gary Ross, Allen Alsobrook, Allison Thomas, Andy Borowitz, Bob Degus
  • Format: Black & White, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Original recording reissued, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Number of tapes: 1
  • Studio: New Line Home Video
  • VHS Release Date: August 31, 1999
  • Run Time: 124 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (711 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 0780627024
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #138,859 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews

Fantastical writer Gary Ross (Big, Dave) makes an auspicious directorial debut with this inspired and oddly touching comedy about two '90s kids (Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon) thrust into the black-and-white TV world of Pleasantville, a Leave It to Beaver-style sitcom complete with picket fences, corner malt shop, and warm chocolate chip cookies. When a somewhat unusual remote control (provided by repairman Don Knotts) transports them from the jaded real world to G-rated TV land, Maguire and Witherspoon are forced to play along as Bud and Mary Sue, the obedient children of George and Betty Parker (William H. Macy and Joan Allen). Maguire, an obsessive Pleasantville devotee, understands the need for not toppling the natural balance of things; Witherspoon, on the other hand, starts shaking the town up, most notably when she takes basketball stud Skip (Paul Walker) up to Lover's Lane for some modern-day fun and games. Soon enough, Pleasantville's teens are discovering sex along with--gasp!--rock & roll, free thinking, and soul-changing Technicolor. Filled with delightful and shrewd details about sitcom life (no toilets, no double beds, only two streets in the town), Pleasantville is a joy to watch, not only for its comedy but for the groundbreaking visual effects and astonishing production design as the town gradually transforms from crisp black and white to glorious color. Ross does tip his hand a bit about halfway through the film, obscuring the movie's basic message of the unpredictability of life with overloaded and obvious symbolism, as the black-and-white denizens of the town gang up on the "coloreds" and impose rules of conduct to keep their strait-laced town laced up. Still, the characterizations from the phenomenal cast--especially repressed housewife Allen and soda-shop owner Jeff Daniels, doing some of their best work ever--will keep you emotionally invested in the film's outcome, and waiting to see Pleasantville in all its final Technicolor glory. --Mark Englehart

Additional Features

Includes a behind-the-scenes look at the special effects used in the making of Pleasantville.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

137 of 145 people found the following review helpful By Reviewer Dr. Beth #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 7, 2003
Format: VHS Tape
Pleasantville may be one of the best, most underrated movies of all time. I admit, when it was first released, the premise seemed a bit goofy: two teenagers (played by then-unknown actors) are suddenly cast into a Leave It To Beaver-like classic TV town called Pleasantville by none other than Don Knotts (reminds you a little of the forgettable "Stay Tuned," doesn't it?). Upon their arrival, however, they discover that Pleasantville isn't everything it's cracked up to be and that being "pleasant" means missing out on some basic, vital parts of life (such as toilets, and of course, sex). What follows is an amazing transformation: of the main characters, the town, and even the movie itself, whose stunning cinematography slowly adds bursts of color to Pleasantville's black and white world while simultaneously providing a metaphor for the race conflicts of the 1950s and 60s. The two unknown actors turn out to be the now-famous Tobey Maguire and Reese Whitherspoon, both of whom shine like the stars they are in one of their first movies. Added to this are excellent supporting performances by some of the best in the business, including William H. Macy, Joan Allen, Jeff Daniels, and the late great character actor J.T. Walsh. An absolutely incredible, must-see film.
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51 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Chris O'Malley on March 11, 2004
Format: DVD
A beautiful film, make no mistake. But what is "Pleasantville" really about? The "moral/repressed" 1950's against the "decadent/free-spirited" 1990's? I would venture not -- rather, the town of Pleasantville represents a fantasy of what the 1950's were like, a peek at what many imagine was a golden age of "family values" and sexual innocence. The fact that the 1950's were not actually like this is passed over by many of the film's critics, who see the sexual elements in the film as an attack on morality typical of an equally imaginary "immoral" modern world.
But "Pleasantville" is about fantasy and reality, not the 1950's and the 1990's. The characters take on color not because they are discovering sexuality but because they are becoming whole human beings rather than imaginary characters in an unchanging idyllic world. This is no less true of David/Bud and Jennifer/Mary Sue than it is of the citizens of the town. The symbolism of the fruit, paralleling the Biblical story of emerging human awareness and its divinity, is powerful. Contrary to those who see the knowledge of good and evil as an affront to God, "Pleasantville" reminds us that it is this knowledge that makes us like God, possessing of a divine nature that other animals lack. As to the charges that the film glorifies irresponsible sexuality, I point out that Jennifer/Mary Sue only achieves color when she stops having sex and discovers that there is more to life than the shallow pleasure-only morality she had previously embraced. One must be sexual to be whole, but one cannot be whole if one is only sexual.
So see "Pleasantville", but be warned: it will challenge you in ways that few stories do.
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41 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Chris Wells on January 2, 2000
Format: DVD
Pleasantville is a fantastic film experience, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. A true, striking, and original masterpiece; Pleasantville is a must for any movie fan. What makes the film such a joy is how it exists on so many levels; almost anyone can find something to like here. It's at times a simple fantasy, others a biting satire, and even others an account of our history and change as people. Pleasantville is purely original and very well-structured. It deals with mature themes and if you're someone who likes to analyze films, then this is a great choice. The DVD warrants a purchase, even if you already own the VHS version (as I do), one of the few DVD's that does. Do yourself a favor and listen to writer-director Gary Ross's commentary-it's dynamite, even if you generally do not like commentaries. It's incredibly enlightening and adds much to the film's depth. Ross cleary illustates all of the overlapping themes and symbolism, and adds a personal touch to the movie's meaning. (The unintended rip-offs of The Shawshank Redemption and Citizen Kane are particularly interesting). The film has a bright, crisp transfer and excellent sound. The only way to enjoy Pleasantville (other than the theater) is on DVD. Newman's music is magical, also. There's a neat (oh, I'm talking like a 50's person now) behind the scenes documentary on the film's jaw-dropping special effects. The included Fiona Apple music video is pretty neat and directed by P.T. Anderson. (Anderson fans take note: watch for Anderson regular John C. Reilly at the video's end.) Overall, a DVD to buy: one of '98's best films with tons of extras to boot. Swell.
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38 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Kristy Howard on January 2, 2005
Format: DVD
Pleasantville is like a colorized movie version of Twilight Zone. A modern day boy (Toby McGuire) dreams of going back to the innocent days of the 1950s. When he gets his wish via a magical stranger played by Don Knotts, he and his sister Reese Witherspoon steps into a black and white world of Pleasantville, a town stucked in the 1950s. As the town's innocence is wiped away with the introduction of books and knowledge, color replaces the black and white starkness of the town and its people. Beautifully acted and filmed, this movie has heart and a brain.
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