Rated PG - Running Time: 1:28 - Released 2/8/02

About ten years ago, Jim Carrey would have starred in this movie. But Carrey's moved on to more cerebral parts, and besides, he's already done the "liar" thing. So instead we have long-time second banana Paul Giamatti in his first starring role. Giamatti, most recently seen (but not necessarily recognized) in last summer's Planet Of The Apes, jumps into this role as if he's trying to impersonate a Mask-era Carrey, with whom he's appeared in both The Truman Show and Man On The Moon, jumping, screaming, mugging, and generally overexerting himself for a thankless role in a well-meaning but brain-dead film which will disappear like clouds in yesterday's coffee. Whatever that means.

Also starring in this film, and probably more likely to attract members of its pre-teen target audience, are Malcolm In The Middle's Frankie Muniz, carving out a respectable niche for himself despite the fact that I've yet to see him play anything but a clever, charming kid, and Amanda Bynes, fresh-faced star of such Nickelodeon sketch-comedy TV shows as All That and her own Amanda Show, in her first feature film role. At the helm is TV director Shawn Levy, whose workmanlike treatment matches the bland script of Dan Schneider and Brian Robbins, longtime partners on various kid-friendly, mind-numbing Nickelodeon projects like those mentioned. These guys have perfected a formula for creating what kids like, and they're milling movies and TV shows just as fast as they can get them out, quality and integrity be damned.

Muniz plays clever and charming 14-year-old Jason Shepherd, whose tendency toward lying extends from his home life, where he tells his parents he ate his oatmeal, to school, where he invents increasingly elaborate excuses for why he didn't finish his homework. But when he meets conceited, self-serving movie producer Marty Wolf (Giamatti), and accidentally leaves his English essay in Wolf's possession, his life changes. Although his parents don't believe that his paper was stolen, it turns up as Wolf's next blockbuster movie, Big Fat Liar. Deciding the only way to regain his parents' respect is to prove the story is his, Jason travels to Hollywood with his best friend and accomplice, Kaylee (Bynes), and confront the producer face to face. When Wolf refuses to own up to the theft, Jason and Kaylee are forced to declare war, pulling countless juvenile pranks, including tainting his pool water with blue dye, super-gluing his earphone to his head, and rigging his car to do all sorts of inappropriate and not particularly funny things. Eventually, because Wolf is such a jerk to everyone he knows, they are able to enlist the help of his personal assistant (Amanda Detmer), his chauffeur (Jason Shepherd), and former Family Matters star Jaleel White (you know, Urkel?), to bring him down.

If this film's producers are pandering to the lowest common denominator, at least they know how to pick the cast to do it. Giamatti's embarrasing exuberance is matched by Muniz's patented charm, and the location (backstage at Universal Studios) provides a fun setting for the substance-free festivities. Bynes has certainly proven her versatility in her TV experience (she's like a 15-year-old Carol Burnett), although her role doesn't call for her to do much other than look pretty and appeal to the boys in the audience who have reached puberty. Beyond that, there are several Nickelodeon cameos and a sugary-sweet, lesson-learned resolution. What more could you want? Quality? Well, you're aiming too high. **

Copyright 2002 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

Current | Archives | Oscars | About | E-Mail