Cast Away (Robert Zemeckis, 2000)
[originally posted 26Nov2001]
Okay, I have to get this out of my system right now. “Castaway” is ONE WORD. Not two. ONE.
And now, on with the review.
It has been a painfully long time since Robert Zemeckis made a good film (Peter Jackson was responsible for The Frighteners, Zemeckis only lent his name); depending on your point of view, that could be Death Becomes Her, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Back to the Future, or if you’re really a purist, Used Cars. Cast Away was the great white hope, the movie that would bring Robert Zemeckis’ career back from the grave he’d dug with such abominable tripe as Forrest Gump and What Lies Beneath.
Sorry. No luck.
In two and a half tortuously long hours, Zemeckis leads Tom Hanks through Christmas dinner, a plane ride, three raft trips, another plane ride, a taxi, and an SUV. And while there are a few other supporting players in the movie (Helen Hunt, a woefully underused Chris Noth, an even more woefully underused Lari White in her first big-screen appearance since the Ben Cross vehicle The Unholy twelve years before), make no mistake—this movie is about Tom Hanks and His Ability to Act. Because of that, the only relationship in the movie that actually makes any sense is that which Hanks forms with his well-known pal Wilson, the volleyball who keeps him company during his stint on the island. (In Zemeckis’ favor, the volleyball never does develop a voice. I feared that for about an hour.)
Given that the movie IS about THaHATA, one wonders why we really needed that hour or so of frame time that surrounded THaHATA. What’s Helen Hunt doing here? Despite her role as Hanks’ wife-to-be at the beginning and the yardstick we are (presumably) supposed to use to judge how the world has gone on without him at the end, her relationship with Hanks is far less convincing than Wilson’s. Like Noth and White, a good actor in a bad role.
Trimming forty-five minutes of frame would have made this watchable, at least. As it stands now, rent it if you like Tom Hanks and have a coupon for a ninety-nine cent rental. **