Liar Liar

This Movie Isn’t Funny

In 1941, Bob Hope reteamed with his co-stars from The Ghost Breakers, Paulette Goddard and Willie Best, to make Nothing But the Truth. The zany comedy (filmed twice previously) had Hope playing a stockbroker who makes a bet that he can go 24 hours without telling a lie. This Jim Carrey slapstick extravaganza runs through the same course, but ups the emotional ante. Instead of just trying to win a bet (and the girl, of course), Carrey’s bout of truthfulness is brought on by the magical birthday wish of his neglected son. Throwing irony into the fire is the fact that his character is a weaselly trial attorney.

The same sort of cornball setup was used last year in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Jingle All the Way – for the Baby Boom ’90s, no trump card is played so often as that of the parent-child relationship. It’s easy to tug at the heartstrings of insecure kids and grownups, who see the threat of a broken home around every corner. But the team behind Liar Liar pulls off the trick well here. Carrey – believe it or not – is operating in a much more believable universe, one in which his antics are the only truly outrageous facet. No pet detective here – his character is a high spirited but otherwise acceptable human.

When his honesty “curse” hits, the real belly laughs begin. One would think that he could simply keep mum and stay out of trouble, but no such luck. Not only does he have to tell the truth, but he’s also compelled to blurt out his feelings on every subject. The fits he goes through while attempting to keep the truth from coming out are just as funny as the zingers that come out when he fails. He even takes time to make fun of himself now and then, especially during the end credits outtakes. Only the ending, in which Carrey races to catch his son and ex-wife Moira Tierney at the airport takes things too far over the top, but only to afford a bigger climax.

Excellent support is provided throughout, especially by Amanda Donohoe who shows off some snappy comic timing. Jennifer Tilly deserves special mention for her work as Carrey’s bimbo fatale client in a divorce case, taking her already established Judy Holiday act and giving it a richly wicked turn.

Jim Carrey is still dodging the stumbling blocks that tripped up the film career of his guiding light Jerry Lewis. So when are these two going to get together in a film?

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