|Written by Abbie Bernstein|
|Tuesday, 20 January 1998|
Silly, sentimental, friendly and tailored to the unique talents of Jim Carrey, ‘Liar Liar’ succeeds at being continuously funny. Every single scene has laughs, though it must be said that this movie plays better with an audience than viewed solo.
The premise is simple, a variation on a theme that has been done many times before (once on a ‘Twilight Zone’ episode): a man steeped in dishonesty is forced by supernatural means to become totally honest. In this instance, the liar is Los Angeles attorney Fletcher Reede (Carrey), who has stood up his five-year-old son Max (Justin Cooper) so many times that the poor kid makes a birthday wish that Dad will have to tell the truth for a whole day. Bad news for Fletcher, who is trying to make partner and win a divorce case which hinges on major fudging of the facts. Fletcher also faces losing Max forever if he can’t persuade his ex-wife (Maura Tierney) not to move to Boston with her new boyfriend (Cary Elwes).
The premise of ‘Liar Liar’ may be tried and true, but it works wonderfully. The script by Paul Guay and Stephen Mazur springs along, buoyed by crazy but consistent internal logic. However, for all the obvious contributions of the filmmakers and the rest of the cast, ‘Liar Liar’ is largely powered by the almost superhuman energy of Carrey. When Carrey’s Fletcher tries to utter a lie while under the truth-telling spell, the outcome is less reminiscent of ‘Dumb and Dumber’ than those scenes in ‘All of Me’ in which Steve Martin’s body was host to both his own character and Lily Tomlin, both trying to walk in separate directions. Carrey makes it look as though every part of Fletcher’s body is at war with every other part, with the man inside as conscious, but helpless onlooker. A prime example of this can be found in Chapter 6, in which Fletcher privately attempts to simply say that a blue pen is red. Carrey’s physical comedy skills seem to be something from the universe of animation, rather than the properties of a three-dimensional performer; he might be actually frightening to watch if he wasn’t so clearly in command and giving every evidence of having a great time.
Director Tom Shadyac gives the proceedings a bouncy, cheerful tone that never becomes mean-spirited; we can’t help liking Fletcher, even though he deserves the misadventures he endures here. The father/son sentiment is laid on thickly, but cut with so much levity that it goes down easily. The broad humor won’t be for everyone, but the jokes come from characters and situations, rather than gross-outs and insults. For those who enjoy lively lunacy, ‘Liar Liar’ will take wing. By all means, watch through the outtakes under the end credits, which contains one of the best laughs in the film.
The DVD of ‘Liar Liar’ contains no supplemental material, though it offers a choice of DTS Surround, which requires a DTS decoder, or Dolby Surround. Since the film’s only real audio/visual special effect is Carrey himself, viewers who lack high-end sound equipment are missing little if anything on the more conventional track. However, the full-frame 1:33.1 aspect ratio (which all viewers of the ‘Liar Liar’ DVD are stuck with), changed from the original letterbox framing, alters the original frame composition and arguably interferes with the comic timing. The sooner DVD releases abandon this frame-cropping practice, the better.