Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Tom Shadyac
Stars: Jim Carrey, Jennifer Tilley, Maura Tierney, Cary Elwes, Justin Cooper, Swoosie Kurtz, Amanda Donohoe, Anne Haney, Mitchell Ryan, Jason Bernard, Eric Pierpoint, Randall “Tex” Cobb.
Following the mixed response to the disappointing black comedy The Cable Guy, Jim Carrey bounces back to the outrageous form his fans expect with his new film Liar Liar. A film designed to showcase Carrey’s uniquely physical brand of comedy, Liar Liar has been one of the biggest successes so far this year, grossing over $165 million at the American box office. In a role seemingly tailor made to suit his undoubted talents, Carrey plays Fletcher Reede, a hot shot lawyer with few scruples, a glib tongue and an unparalleled ability to create inventive fictions and distort the truth. His tactics invariably see his clients acquitted, and he has become quite successful, but at a high personal price. His ex-wife Audrey (Maura Tierney, from the tv sitcom NewsRadio, etc) is on the verge of leaving to establish a new life in Boston with her current boyfriend Jeffrey (Cary Elwes, from Twister, etc), a rather bland, straight-laced and fairly dull hospital administrator, whose honesty and loyalty and sense of devotion offers a welcome contrast to Reede’s self-centred nature.
Fletcher’s estranged five year old son Max (Justin Cooper) is continually disappointed by his inability to keep his promises. During his birthday party, which Fletcher typically fails to attend, Max makes a wish that his dad is unable to tell a lie for 24 hours. The wish comes true, and suddenly Fletcher’s life is turned upside down as he finds himself compelled to tell the truth, often in the most inconvenient of places and situations.
Fletcher has just been lumbered with an ugly but potentially lucrative divorce case that could be his ticket to a partnership in the law firm. Assigned the task of defending the gold digging Mrs. Cole (the wonderful husky-voiced Jennifer Tilley, from Bound, etc), whose “seven single acts of indiscretion” threaten her chances of getting any money from her ex-spouse, Fletcher discovers that his sudden uncontrollable urge to be totally honest may jeopardise everything. Fletcher’s scheming boss Miranda (Amanda Donohoe, from LA Law, etc) takes advantage of his condition to try and undermine him in front of the other partners.
The film’s best moments centre around Carrey’s uninhibited manic contortions and antics as he desperately wrestles with his own unstoppable urge to tell the truth, especially during the important courtroom scenes. Director Tom Shadyac (Ace Ventura, The Nutty Professor) seems to know how to get the best out of his star, and he gives Carrey plenty of freedom to stamp his own personality on the material. Carrey rises to the occasion superbly with an unapologetic, over the top performance that dominates the film, and his energetic style and manic mugging effortlessly leaves his co-stars struggling in his wake. Anne Haney is wonderful as Fletcher’s calm, cool and unflappable secretary who takes Carrey’s antics and his procession of lies in her stride, while Tierney adds some warmth. In his feature film debut young Cooper is quite natural and adds some charm to proceedings without seeming precocious.
Typical of most Hollywood comedies though, the film becomes unbearably saccharine towards the end, especially as Fletcher strives to redeem himself and prove to everyone that he is indeed a good father and responsible parent rather than the slick and selfish lawyer that every one perceives him to be. The quieter scenes between Max and Fletcher have a poignancy and intimacy that provide Carrey with a brief respite from the manic level of energy that he effortlessly maintains throughout the film.
Whenever Carrey is in full flight though, Liar Liar is a wild, unpredictable, frantic, fast paced and hilarious, non-stop roller coaster ride. The out-takes over the final credits show how Carrey’s unpredictable antics and his penchant for improvisation throw his co-stars off their stride, but they also unintentionally provide some of the film’s funniest and most enjoyable moments.