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George At 

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The Postman

In 1997, audiences refused delivery of Kevin Costner's THE POSTMAN, marking it "return to sender "and leaving theaters empty.

In hindsight, the reasons are obvious.

At 177 minutes long, there's nothing express about the story's delivery. Roger Ebert hilariously said that the movie "proceeds with glacial deliberation" and it's hard to argue.

This was Costner's third film in a row about a lone hero wandering the planet. His first effort in the genre was his best, the brilliant 1990 western "Dances with Wolves". He followed that up with the quirky 1995 post apocalyptic epic "Waterworld". Blending those two films to lesser results, he's delivered a post-apocalyptic western.

It's 2013 and the world is emerging from nuclear war that decimated the land and left the survivors with no central government.

Costner wanders the barren countryside, performing Shakespeare with his Donkey for townspeople. Yep, it's as awkward as it sounds. After discovering an aged postal wreck, he takes a bag of mail and steals the uniform off a skeleton and poses as The Postman, delivering very old letters and inventing news that the government has started to reorganize.

The people warm to him with a reverence usually reserved for televangelists, creating more than a few unintentional laughs as Costner keeps positioning the character higher on a pedestal.

It's all pretty goofy but so good natured that it's hard to hate too much.

Will Patton (Armageddon) is effective but one-note as General Bethlehem, the evil self appointed ruler of the land. A wanna be Julius Caesar, his discipline is deadly. Before he becomes the Postman, Costner's character is enslaved into Bethlehem's army, foreshadowing their eventual face-off at the end of the film.

When they do see each other again, I couldn't understand why the General didn't recognize him. All Costner did was shave off his beard. It's the worst disguise since Clark Kent's glasses.

Olivia Williams (The Crown) plays Abby, a beautiful woman in an idyllic town who asks The Postman to help her make a baby. Her husband had "the bad mumps" and they cant conceive. Unintentional laughs abound. Some of the choices Abby makes, especially the way she leaves that cabin in the woods, could only happen in a screenplay that's trying way too hard.

Somewhere in this nearly three hour long wannabe epic is a better two hour film. There are scenes that Costner stages that conjure the same magic as "Wolves". One features a horseback battle in a massive green meadow with horses riding full speed toward each other as James Newton Howard's terrific music score swells in all the right ways. For just a few moments, things feel majestic.

Then we're back to the endless pope-ification of mail carriers.

This must be the Post Office employees favorite movie of all time.

By the time a massive bronze statue is unveiled honoring The Postman, portraying one of the goofiest scenes in the movie, I was back to chuckling.

I enjoyed the third act in the Pacific Northwest the most, with Williams & Costner playing house in the woods and the appearance of a major rock and roll star as himself, now the mayor of a town post-nukes.

Larenz Tate (Ray) is good as Ford Lincoln Mercury (I'm serious) a young man who picks up The Postman's lie and runs with it on a massive basis.

The film was a massive bomb, earning just $20 million worldwide against its massive $80 million budget. Costner funded much of it himself, which gave him total creative freedom. The most glaring evidence of that is that all his kids appear in the film and he even decided to sing the end title song, crooning a duet with Amy Grant.

Too violent and sexy for families and too goofy for just about everyone, THE POSTMAN is an over-indulgent, over-long wannabe epic that lands with a thud.

I'll stamp it with a D.

At one point, Abby looks deep into Costner's eyes and says "You give out hope like it's candy in your pocket."


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