Movie Review: Liar Liar

© 1997 Dan Heller

Quick Review: Great Movie! Loads of fun. From satire to zany, Jim Carrey's getting his schtick and his formula down pat.

Synopsis: Fletcher Reid is a litigator who has had a problem keeping his relationship with his five-year-old son, Max, due to his always promising things (like showing up) but never coming through. When Max blows out the candles on his birthday cake, he wishes that his dad would stop lying for a day. When the wish comes true, Fletcher learns bigger lessons in life than what he bargained for.

Review: Basically, the movie was designed for Jim Carrey, as are all his movies. Like in the Marx Borthers' movies of old, Carrey's behavior is not expected to be taken as realistic or literal, especially by the reactions of the other characters in the film. But, unlike the Marx Brothers, Carrey brings more depth (through emotion and meaning) to his characters that give him and this movie credibility.

"Liar, Liar" works very well at three different levels that make it complete, and that also differentiate this movie from any of his ealier works: satire, characters and depth. Yes, there is a "formula" plotline, but that's the point: Jim Carrey is "satire" to the bone, and what better fun to have than to poke at a familiar 90's theme without insulting it. The plot is almost identical to "Mrs. Doubtfire" where a great, talented and funny guy is trying to keep his relationship with his kids, while dealing with the ex-wife, keeping his job, etc. And then he goes through an unexpected transformation (here, he can't lie for a whole day), that ends up teaching him a lesson and giving a happy ending. You can just see the Carrey "aww shucks" smile, gleaming out, can't you? But, as I always say, don't judge a movie by its premise or its plot: judge it by how well its done.

The emotion and depth in the movie comes from Carrey's genuine and surprising ability to seem authentically concerned about the issues he's faced with, from his kid to his career to his facing moral and ethical issues. He shows depth where we don't expect it, even if only for a short time, and it works. This, in contrast to The Mask, for example, where there was no other interesting or important part of the movie, other than watching him go nuts. Yes, that was fun, but with meaning, nuttiness can be far more effective and make us laugh even more. Add on top of that his ability to make us laugh through verbal wit, not just his traditional physical antics, and the movie exceeds expectations (at least, mine).

For the movie as a whole, the execution is perfect. Carrey pokes fun at everything, including himself (in a quip about "making a lot of money by just having a funny face"), relationships, telling the truth (or lying), and a host of other things. Even the end of the movie, we are treated with a bunch of bloopers/outtakes from the making of the film (why don't they do this more often?!).

At no time did I feel that his antics were too over-the-top, or that the plot was getting stupid, or that the characters were buying into the behaviors because the script told them to. (Ok, one scene where he "roasts" the boss and everyone else seemed a bit stretched, but we're nit-picking here.)

There's no sense in repeating any of the jokes -- delivery is half the humor -- so I'd just recommend going to see it. Take a kid along, if you've got some. :-)
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