“Liar Liar” is one of Jim Carrey’s earlier movies, released in 1997, and is one of his funniest roles to date. This is the Jim Carrey that still hasn’t “gone serious” with films like “The Truman Show” and “The Majestic.” With “Liar Liar” Carrey is the rubberface comedian whose face and body can contort into any shape and angle and position imaginable without the help of cgi. It is some seriously funny stuff.
Jim Carrey plays Fletcher Reede, a sleazy trial lawyer who is incapable of telling the simplest truth. Being that he’s also a neglectful father, Fletcher’s son Max (Justin Cooper) makes a wish on his birthday that for just one day his father can’t tell a lie. (You see, Fletcher makes promises and never keeps them.) And just like Tom Hanks’ wish in “Big”, Max’s wish comes true! Of course, being that Fletcher is a sleazy lawyer and is representing an equally sleazy client, this is the worst day for him not to be able to tell lies. So can Fletcher survive the day, or will his truthful mouth doom him?
“Liar Liar” is built on one of those story premises that only work in movies. Like the aforementioned “Big,” Fletcher can’t tell lies simply because the son wishes for it, and no logical explanation is given (or needed, actually). For instance, when Fletcher finds out about his son’s wish, he just accepts it as fact! Not only Fletcher, but also every other character in the film as well, as if kids’ wishes magically comes true all the time. Just keep telling yourself, “It’s just a movie, it’s just a movie,” and you’ll be greatly entertained.
To be honest, I couldn’t tell you how much of Fletcher’s insanity Carrey made up himself on the spot or was written by screenwriters Paul Guay and Stephen Mazur. Always known for carrying a shtick to the very end, Carrey shows just why he’s worth $20 million a picture here. He is a riot, throwing himself through doors, onto floors, and flashing through one expression after another as if his life depended on it. And you know what? It’s all funny. I couldn’t remember when I had laughed so hard.
Of course, “Liar Liar” can’t have Fletcher running around trying not to tell the truth all the time, and half of its running length is spent with Fletcher trying to reconcile with his ex-wife Audrey (Maura Tierney) and making up to his neglected son Max. Those scenes are, to be frank, tiresome because they’re just so highly predictable. Thankfully director Tom Shadyac (“Dragonfly”) never makes us wait too long before another “can’t tell a lie” moment comes up.
(As a slight aside, Cary Elwes (“The Princess Bride”) has yet another throwaway role as the man trying to make a play for Fletcher’s ex. When is someone going to give the man something better to do?)
The writing, beyond concentrating on Fletcher’s laugh-out loud attempts to keep himself from telling the truth in the office and in court, is flavorless. Which means a lot of the movie’s attempts at seriousness (deadbeat dads are not funny) falls flat. In a comedy where a boy wishes that his father can’t tell a lie and that wish actually comes true, there’s very little room for serious stuff. The movie might have benefited from going full tilt with the hilarity and gags, but then again I suppose it would be a little difficult to keep up the pace.
To be honest, I’m not sure who I like more: this rubberface Carrey or the semi-serious Carrey of “The Truman Show.” I guess I like them both, but I have to admit that seeing Carrey throwing himself all over the set is quite a sight. Here’s to hoping he takes a break from the serious stuff to do some rubberface stuff again in the future, before he gets too old and can’t anymore. After all, there’s nothing worst than an actor who tries to defy his age. Carrey’s not quite there yet, but he’s getting there…
Tom Shadyac (director) / Paul Guay, Stephen Mazur (screenplay)
CAST: Jim Carrey …. Fletcher Reede
Maura Tierney …. Audrey Reede
Justin Cooper …. Max Reede
Jennifer Tilly …. Samantha Cole