This Friday I saw Liar Liar, a Jim Carrey comedy in which a son who misses his father makes a wish that dad (that would be Jim Carrey) can’t lie for one whole day.
The short version: Midway through the movie I already wanted to come back and see it again. Jennifer Tilly says it is “All of Me crossed with Kramer vs. Kramer.” So I hope you liked those movies because they make a great Liar Liar.
The long version: Every time I talk about a Jim Carrey movie I try to remain aware that there are slews of people out there who find him to be sophomoric, over-muggy, and stupid. If the only Carrey movie you have ever seen is the first Ace Ventura, you might have that impression. But if you’re like me and my moviegoing partner (Kevin), you let yourself laugh at Jim Carrey’s antics and curse yourself for falling for it. Each Carreysim that passes it becomes easier and easier to relax and admit I am enjoying the hell out of myself!
So, this preface is merely to say that I am working with the assumption that you already like Jim Carrey. I am becoming a bigger and bigger fan of his each film (yes, even Dumb and Dumber surprised some hoots out of me – damn me!). If you are NOT a fan of Jim Carrey, my strong recommendation would be to see Liar Liar and THEN pass judgement on his comic talent and his ability to hold a movie together with something other than his butt cheeks. His character is more mature in this movie, and most (95%) of the time he is not doing the rubberfaced diva act that turns some people off.
I ramble on because Jim Carrey is one of those actors people tend to remain negative about – if they saw something they didn’t like, and when the hype wave makes him more ubiquitous, they just wanna resist more. But to you non-believers out there, this might be the Carrey movie that breaks you. It has truly unrealistic and outlandish moments, sure, but they are fueled by his desperation. The rest of the movie (once you accept the no-lies spell) is extremely real and honest. Oh, and it’s really funny! Did I mention that part?
Whew! Now on with the actual review!
The crux of Liar Liar is that attorney Fletcher (Jim C.) is destroying his relationship with his 5 year old son by being a lying flake. By having to tell the truth all day, he undergoes a transformation – for the better of course. While on paper this sounds awfully hokey, it really works well for the movie, balancing the wacky Carrey moments with real warmth, without being gooey.
I am sure most of you have seen the previews and thought to yourself, well, I know those jokes now, why should I see the movie? I am sick to death of memorizing a gag from a preview and finding out it’s the biggest laugh of the movie, and watching what should have been a peak comic moment flop within the whole context of the film because I have seen the joke a zillion times. Liar Liar does no such injustice. The bits you see in the preview are end pieces stuck together with even funnier stuff between them than they show in the teaser. And there’s plenty more where that came from!
The previews hint at a treacly sub plot of family and an adorable child (the son’s birthday wish, tinkling music, etc.) but this child (Justin Cooper) and Maura Tierney (Audrey/mom – you would recognize her from NewsRadio) and Jim Carrey (dad) have a truly involved relationship. For you Cary Elwes fans out there (all three of you) he plays Audrey’s boyfriend.
T. Fletcher’s conflict with himself (the emotional one – you’ll have to see the movie to see the physical one!) is extremely genuine and I even misted up at points. Carrey is actually a very gifted actor whose audience doesn’t want to see him be serious. His TV movie Doing Time On Maple Drive should be rereleased so he has a chance at more opportunities than playing a guy who can…well I don’t want to give anything away, but when he goes into the courthouse bathroom, watch out for funny! No, it has nothing to do with body functions.
I tend to grow impatient with kids in movies, either because they are Hollywood style precocious or act10 years older than they should be. Fletcher’s son Max was very real, very sweet, and best of all, not trying to be as funny as the lead. It’s great watching these two together – and the more I feel for the “serious” part of the film, the more hilarious becomes Fletchers battle with himself. He isn’t *told* that he cannot tell a lie for a day – it just sort of happens. It’s as if a cosmic ventriloquist is physically manipulating his vocal cords to say “YES” even as his mouth and brain and demeanor are trying to say “NO.” (Boy it’s tempting to give something away) – the examples they give in the preview sound mean spirited rather than just sounding like enforced honesty – but he is terribly embarrassed by the words that spew out of his mouth. We like his kid as much as he does, so we feel his pain that his truth-telling contortions are causing him. Bust a gut funny is this!
The supporting players are funny (even Oscar nominee Jennifer Tilly!) and the Carrey machinations are funny, it’s all funny. The director, Tom Shadyac, used to be a stand-up comedian himself and he knows how to use the rhythm and tempo of Jim’s performance to propel the movie rather than to drag it down, SNL-style.
My vote: Full Price Feature (need a sound cue right here – how about cha-ching!)
Author note: This was my very first review, and it started me on the path to where I am now. I just wanted Jim Carrey detractors to give him a chance, and so I emailed this to a bunch of my friends, who essentially said, “keep doing it.” Thanks, guys. And thanks, Mr. Carrey.
MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 3/25/1997
Time in minutes 87
Director Tom Shadyac