Mark Twain's America

  • 1998
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Documentary

Modern technology gives a mix of actual 19th-century stereoscopic novelties and conventional photos a 3-D gloss in this new Imax feature. There are portraits of Mark Twain (1835-1910) himself, of course, but also fascinating glimpses of loading docks, mills, schoolyards and people going about their everyday business on rutted small town streets. So it's...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Modern technology gives a mix of actual 19th-century stereoscopic novelties and conventional photos a 3-D gloss in this new Imax feature. There are portraits of Mark Twain (1835-1910) himself, of course, but also fascinating glimpses of loading docks,

mills, schoolyards and people going about their everyday business on rutted small town streets. So it's really too bad that this Imax documentary about the rapier-tongued writer is such a bore -- if you weren't wearing that gigantic 3-D headset, you might be tempted to put your head down on your

desk and catch a quick nap. Part of the problem is that so much time is given over to rather dubious modern-day footage: a fat frog that was once disqualified from a contest inspired by Twain's The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County; ladies who sew painstaking reproductions of

19th-century clothes and stage elegant balls; a man who built his own full-size, working riverboat; amateur re-creations of Civil War battles; another man who owns and operates a 19th-century steam engine; a fence-painting contest inspired by The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; folks in Hannibal,

MO (Twain's hometown) celebrating the Fourth of July. The point seems to be that Twain continues to fascinate a broad spectrum of people, but since none of them gets to explain what exactly draws them back to the past (Twain's acerbic writing or, more likely, some free-floating nostalgia for a

mythical, simpler world), we're mostly stuck with the spectacle of people engaging in what looks like a lot of elaborate, if harmless, tomfoolery. And though the film plays lip service to Twain's jaundiced view of human nature and razor-sharp way with words, overall it's a whitewash: He comes off

as a kindly curmudgeon, rather than a merciless observer of the complex foibles of men, women and children.

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  • Released: 1998
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Modern technology gives a mix of actual 19th-century stereoscopic novelties and conventional photos a 3-D gloss in this new Imax feature. There are portraits of Mark Twain (1835-1910) himself, of course, but also fascinating glimpses of loading docks, mil… (more)

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