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The Postman

movie review by
Gary Johnson

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Official Web site for THE POSTMAN

After Dances With Wolves, I looked forward to the next Kevin Costner-directed movie. Well, after seven years, the wait is over, but I don't think I'll be looking forward to any more Costner movies. The Postman is such an astonishingly bad movie that it makes Dances With Wolves look like an accident, the happy result of circumstances.

Kevin Costner plays one of the survivors in a post-apocalyptic world. The year is 2013 and small pockets of civilization still exist, but between the towns, an army of opportunistic thugs roams the countryside--sort of like Road Warriors on horses. Costner is a loner, who only trusts his mule. After a run-in with the United Army, Costner discovers a bag of mail in an abandoned car. He decides to use the mail bag as a means of getting into one of the barricaded towns. He claims the U.S. government is operational again and one of its first orders of business is to restart the U.S. Post Office. The townspeople are skeptical, but when he starts reading the names on the envelopes in his bag, the townspeople discover that some of the mail is addressed to people still alive in their town. The mail is old, but the hope of communication becomes contagious. Before he knows it, kids follow in his footsteps and establish a postal network that links the towns.

Now this premise isn't without some charm. It works as a metaphor for the value of communication and the need for people to communicate with family and friends. In one telling scene, the army captures a mail carrier and reads the letters: "You get births and deaths. Weather. Gossip," the army captain says, astonished. He expected secret war plans, why else would the mail carriers risk capture by the army? But in this post-apocalyptic environment, the content of the letters is secondary to the value of simple communication--sort of like the phone company's "Reach out and touch" advertisement campaign.

However, The Postman is filled with some of the stupidest characters on record. Apparently no one ever realized how much they missed communication with families and friends until Kevin Costner became the "postman." It's almost as if the entire world were turned into morons by the radioactive fallout. We know that Costner and Will Patton (as the leader of the "United Army") are the only two intelligent people around because they're the only ones who know William Shakespeare. Mind you, the movie is only set 16 years in the future. The filmmakers apparently believe that modern civilization is a prerequisite for intelligence.

Costner aims for providing a positive, populist type of movie, in the mold of Frank Capra, giving us a lead character who doesn't aim for greatness--but greatness somehow finds him. He becomes the most famous man of his time. But wouldn't the technology for short wave radios still exist? Wouldn't people still have many more ways to communicate? The Postman would have us believe that a mail carrier could become a savior.

Unlike Starship Troopers, which gave us an equally silly premise but acknowledged the silliness with a tongue-in-cheek attitude, The Postman takes itself very seriously. And it's hard not to laugh when Kevin Costner talks about the value of being a postman. Worst of all is the ridiculous slow-motion scene where Kevin Costner, riding on a horse, grabs a letter from the hand of a boy who waits beside the road. Scenes like this one wallow in sentimentality and let the movie become a mechanical, contrived exercise in audience manipulation.

[rating: 1 of 4 stars]

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