America's funniest home video.

The Truman Show Stars Jim Carrey, Laura Linney and Ed

Harris Theaters Palace 12, Eastland, Woodland Hills,

Admiral Drive-in and Cinema 8 (Broken Arrow, Sand Springs)

Studio Paramount Pictures Running time 104 minutes

Rated PG (mild language, adult themes) Quality FOUR

STARS (on a scale of zero to four stars)

Baby boomers were the first generation to be raised with

the seemingly benign eye of television blinking in living

rooms, overseeing our every move. We tuned in early to the

forced cheeriness of "Ozzie & Harriet" and even now we're

glued to the screen for the false conviviality of "America's

Funniest Home Videos" and the tawdry peeping-Tom-ism of

Jerry Springer.

So by this time, boomers and their offspring are so

benumbed to the ubiquitousness of the tube and its glowing

netherworld of fiction and fact that the eerily funny,

archly inventive and ultimately frightening premise of "The

Truman Show" shouldn't seem all that far-fetched.

A 24-hour-a-day program that chronicles the mundane

events in the life of one unsuspecting Everyman? A show in

which all of the guy's friends, neighbors, co-workers and

even family hold Screen Actors Guild cards? A show where

hidden cameras -- in bushes, in shirt buttons, in bread boxes

-- follow the man's every move through a carefully scripted

day?

Hey, it could happen!

And with "Twilight Zone" otherness, it happens in "The

Truman Show," the brilliant, off-kilter parable that proves

these salient points: Marshall McLuhan was right -- the

medium IS the message. Australian Peter Weir ("Gallipoli,"

"Witness" "Dead Poets Society") is a great and intelligent

director. And -- biggest surprise of all -- Jim Carrey can

act.

And therein lies this film's biggest asset and its

biggest drawback. Because as Truman Burbank, the naive,

likable and vaguely unaware star of "The Truman Show," Carrey

turns in a beautifully restrained and richly nuanced

performance that really sells this far-out material. But

fans who railed against his dark and daring "The Cable Guy"

and insist that the comic stick to the lowdown antics of

"Ace Ventura" and "Dumb and Dumber" will most likely be put off

by the decidedly muted humor of this piece.

"The Truman Show" is a thoughtful, adult fantasy that

perfectly captures the nature of our life-in-a-fishbowl

times. It's set in the seemingly sun-kissed, idyllic town

of Seahaven (actually Seaside, Fla.), where the

irrepressibly cheerful Truman enjoys a storybook suburban

life. In a prim house with two-car garage and manicured

lawn, he lives with his Stepford wife, Meryl (Laura

Linney), a dimpled and perky former cheerleader.

Every day, he goes to his job, selling insurance; every

evening, he comes home to a wholesome dinner and his TV

Guide; every weekend, he tends his lawn and shares a few

brewskis with his lifelong pal, Marlon (Noah Emmerich).

All in all, a seemingly perfect life. But little does

Truman know that his whole world is a fraud. Seaside is

inside the largest soundstage ever constructed (one of two

Earth monoliths, along with the Great Wall of China,

visible from space). And every hour of every day, Truman's

life is being beamed to TV sets across the world, where a

rapt audience watches, making it the highest-rated show in

television history. And the dawn doesn't ever break over

Truman's world until the show's creator, the

all-controlling "televisionary" Christof (Ed Harris),

commands, "Cue the sun."

However, all is not perfect. For one thing, Truman has

begun to gaze at the pristine horizon and long for what's

beyond. He wants to be an explorer; he wants to go to Fiji.

"This will pass," his bland wife coos, as everyone around

Truman conspires to keep him in Seahaven.

Even so, cracks begin to appear in Truman's hermetic

world. One day, massive Klieg light drops from the sky and

crashes onto the street outside Truman's house. Another

time, a thunderstorm pours rain on one spot -- directly over

Truman. Also, stage directions from the TV control booth

begin to bleed into Truman's car radio, giving him an audio

glimpse into the behind-the-scenes machinations of his

world.

Eventually, Truman's suspicions are peaked, and he

becomes more and more convinced that he must flee Seahaven

to save his very mind and soul.

Weir, working from a clever script by Andrew Niccol (who

wrote and directed "Gattaca"), plays confidently in the gray

areas between fact and fiction, raising some telling issues

about our media-saturated times and giving new dimension to

the question: does art imitate life or does life imitate

art?

As inventive and creative as Weir's staging is, "The

Truman Show" wouldn't work without credible Truman. And

Carrey carries off the tricky role with a chipperness that

belies a deep-seeded longing for more in life than surface

perfection. Certainly, Carrey has some funny bits here and

there, but this is not just comic cutting up. It's real

comic acting, with emotional depth and psychological

dimension that makes it truly compelling.

With fascinating supporting turns by Emmerich as the

bosom buddy who manipulates Truman shamelessly, by Linney

as the pert blonde June Cleaver clone, and by Harris as the

megalomaniacal director who created Truman and believes he

has the right to destroy him, "The Truman Show" neatly pulls

off a perfect conceit for an era, when computer

communications, surveillance technology, media intrusion

and rampant voyeurism make it a story that cuts closer to

the truth than we might like to admit.