Life is short so time is precious. From that axiom we derive a
fundamental rule of movie going: Don't waste your time at movies
starring people whom you know you hate.
Well, as of two weeks ago, I knew that I could not stand Howard
Stern or Jim Carrey. The former was merely foul mouthed and the latter
was an incorrigible overactor. Since I knew this to be so, I
studiously avoided listening to or seeing them. There were more than
enough alternatives so skipping their acts was a prudent and obvious
decision for me.
Last week I saw Howard Stern's PRIVATE PARTS and found it one of
the funniest and sweetest films in a long time. This week it was Jim
Carrey in LIAR LIAR, and again, a complete surprise. One of my fellow
critics suggested I see LIAR LIAR and the trailers did look promising,
but still this was Jim Carrey, whose last appearance was in THE CABLE
A second confession in as many weeks is in order for my readers.
Although his incessant physical comedy can easily exhaust his audience,
I thought Jim Carrey's performance was hilarious. I hate slapstick
because it usually dissolves into mindless stupidity, but Carrey
manages to take this brand of humor to a new level. Carrey has so much
skill and dexterity that he could breathe life into a bad comedy, which
LIAR LIAR is not. The intelligent script by Paul Guay and Stephen
Mazur utilizes Carrey's talent masterfully. I expected his antics, but
was surprised by the quantity and effectiveness of the one line
Director Tom Shadyac has the good sense to let Carrey set the
pace. In the not-to-be-missed outtakes during the ending credits, you
can see how Carrey was the star around which the other actors revolved.
The film's cast has actors who can complement Carrey without ever
attempting to upstage him -- probably an insurmountable feat in any
As LIAR LIAR opens, five-year-old Max Reid (Justin Cooper) is
busying explaining to his class what his father does. Although Max
claims his father's profession is being a liar, the teacher corrects
him by saying Max must have meant lawyer. The story demonstrates that
Max was right. His dad, Fletcher (Jim Carrey), lies non-stop. Like
Mitch McDeere in THE FIRM, Fletcher is an insatiable workaholic, who
will do anything to advance his career. Also like Howard Langston in
JINGLE ALL THE WAY, Fletcher has trouble making the key events in son's
life. Unlike these pervious films, however, where the family
relationship was not credible, Fletcher is convincing about his love
for his son. The chemistry between them, especially in "The Claw"
routines, is genuine. Divorced from his wife Audrey (Maura Tierney),
Fletcher's part-time relationship with his son has just enough pathos
to make the humor more involving.
Fletcher's busy schedule causes him to have to take Max with him
one day to the office. "Why don't you go play in the office a minute,"
Fletcher tells him. "Sue someone for everything they've got."
The film takes the time to setup the long running big joke. Along
the way we meet Virginia Cole (Jennifer Tilly). She is a conniving
adulteress who wears skimpy clothes that advertise her wares. In a
telling bit of dialog, Fletcher interviews Virginia in his office to
show her what a hotshot lawyer he is.
"Mrs. Cole, the only problem here is that after you've provided
years of faithful service and loving support raising his children --,"
says Fletcher. "They are his?"
"Oh yeah," she replies. "One for sure."
"After all that, your husband wants to deny you a fair and
equitable share of the marital assets based on one single act of
indiscretion," explains Fletcher showing how he will frame her case.
"Seven," corrects Virginia. "Seven single acts of indiscretion."
Shrugging Fletcher says, "Whatever."
Max does not approve of his father's lying so he makes a single
wish as he blows out his birthday candles, "I wish, for just one day,
Dad couldn't tell a lie." Like the simple premise in GROUNDHOG DAY
from this one fantasy element springs the charm of the rest of the
Feeling compelled to tell the absolute truth can get a person in
more trouble than you would imagine. Fletcher meets a woman in the
elevator who says it is her first day on the job, and she is surprised
that men have gone out of their way to be nice to her. Fletcher takes
one look at her bulging breasts and low cut dress and tells her why the
men have been so obsequious to her. She belts him one.
Max informs him that, "My teacher tells me beauty is on the
inside." Correcting him, Fletcher says, "That's just something ugly
The heart of the show is Virginia's divorce trial. Beside being a
sometimes touching and always sidesplittingly funny film, the movie
becomes something of a mystery as well as you try to figure out how the
trial will end. Suffice it to say that the ending is as imaginative as
the rest of this delightful picture.
LIAR LIAR runs a fast hour and a half. It is rated PG-13 for
sexual humor and language. This is a mild PG-13. If your kids are old
enough to know about sex, they will probably love the film since it is
just as likely to amuse a ten-year-old as a fifty-year-old. A good
spirited film that had me doubling over in laughter. I give it a
strong recommendation and *** 1/2.
Copyright © 1997 Steve Rhodes