Liar Liar (1997) / Comedy-Fantasy
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for language and some sex-related humor
Running Time: 86 min.
Cast: Jim Carrey, Maura Tierney, Justin Cooper, Cary Elwes, Anne Haney, Jennifer Tilly, Swoosie Kurtz, Amanda Donohoe, Jason Bernard, Randal "Tex" Cobb, Cheri Oteri, Krista Allen (cameo), Christopher Darden (cameo)
Director: Tom Shadyac
Screenplay: Paul Guay, Stephen Mazur
Review published February 17, 1999
One reason that Liar Liar is a difficult film to review lies in the simple reason that a funny-bone lies in the arm (or is that mind?) of the beholder. For comedy audiences and critics alike, there are two main schools of thought that allow us to gauge whether a comedy is good or bad. One school says that a comedy is good if it is a good film overall with insightful food for thought, even if not a knee-slapper, while the other says that a comedy is good if it delivers consistent laughs. Hence, a comedy may be a good film if not side-splittingly funny; Tootsie and Fargo are considered well-made comedies, yet they are not a laugh-a-minute riot. On the other hand, there are some comedies made that, while not being good films as a whole, made you laugh until you fell out of your seat, despite it all.
Liar Liar is from this second type of comedy film. It may not be a great movie, but it will probably make you laugh, and laugh often. It stars Jim Carrey (The Cable Guy, Batman Forever) as Fletcher Reede, a divorce lawyer that seemingly has no bottom to his insincerity. He lies to everyone to make them feel good, and lies as part of his profession to help his clients undeservedly win their cases. Unfortunately, his lies no longer work their magic on his ex-wife (Tierney, Primary Colors) and five-year-old son, who believe that actions speak louder than words when it comes to Fletcher. When he fails to make an appearance at his son's birthday party as promised, the son makes a wish that his father not tell a lie for an entire day. The only drawback is that he has a very important divorce case the following day and must lie through his teeth to help his philandering client. To top it all off, his ex-wife wants to move the following day to Boston to live with her fiancée, and Fletcher must somehow patch things up there too, or he will rarely see his beloved son again.
Truth be told, Liar Liar has the makings to be a real stinker. It is predictable, derivative, and unrealistic in extremes, and even the comedy itself is not handled particularly well. However, despite all of the evidence to the contrary, it still manages to work. The film has one asset, but it's enough to carry it: the manically inspired performance of its star.
To be honest, I'm not particularly a raving Carrey fanatic, but somehow he has a knack for delivering consistent laughs in his films, and I laughed repeatedly with Liar Liar. Carrey is a true master of broad comedies and he delivers yet again. If you don't have a taste for Carrey's brand of humor, don't even attempt this film, it's probably not worth the aggravation. For those that do like his shtick, it delivers on laughs, if not on cinematic wonderment, and for that it gets a recommendation.
©1999 Vince Leo