Universal // 1997 // 87 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // July 3rd, 2007
So, you want to see Jim Carrey making funny faces in high-def? Here you go.
Dierctor Tom Shadyac and Jim Carrey paired up for the second time in this film (Carrey's break-out Ace Ventura was their maiden voyage), a gimmick comedy with Carrey playing a slimeball lawyer who continually disappoints his son, forcing the little bastard to put a gypsy hex on him. Maybe it's not gypsy-based, but still, the mojo works, and Fletcher (Carrey) is unable to tell a lie. This of course makes his job difficult and comes at an especially bad time as he is in the middle of a messy divorce case.
Long story short, Carrey sticks his tongue out a lot and learns a valuable lesson.
You've seen this movie. You know the skinny. It's a vehicle for Jim Carrey to bust out his physical comedy and crank the dial up to "Spastic." And it's another Tom Shadyac film, from the man who's churned out Bruce Almighty and its follow-up Evan Almighty as well as a few other "safe" comedies. You might love him, you might loathe him. For me, I appreciate Shadyac's brand of (increasingly) family-friendly comedy, though I am often unmoved by the blandness of his product. And that's what Liar Liar is for me: a sporadically amusing yet milquetoast comedy that takes one gimmick and inflates it to 90 minutes worth of wild gesticulations, draping the entire procedure in one of the most annoying musical scores this side of Popeye. Look, I'm not a jaded, stiff-jawed yokel and I fully admit there are some laughs to be had (Carrey's quick "truth" lines are very good), but this kind of ultra-physical comedy is exhausting. Carrey is someone I enjoy in small doses, however, Shadyac has given him freedom to go completely ballistic and with his hyperkinetic comic tendency -- already molecularly unstable to begin with -- turbocharged, the entire screen just gets nuked. This works for a lot of people. Not me. The pen-grappling and bathroom self-immolation sequences are just examples of the film's anything-for-a-laugh sensibilities.
On the periphery of Carrey's manic performance are the other elements of the film, like the plot (saccharine), the supporting cast (typical pretentious little kid, exasperated ex-wife, shady ex-wife's soon-to-be-husband) and the moral (don't lie or you'll disappoint your child and he may grow up to torture petting zoo animals). None of these aspects bothered me, but a special mention has to be made about the score: it is the most overproduced, contrived, wanna-be cartoonish arrangement I can recall and is nigh-unlistenable. Take that score away or replace it with something more subtle and appropriate like, say, a cacophony of baboons in heat overlaid on a Nine Inch Nails song and maybe I wouldn't have such a harsh reaction to the film. Maybe.
The film reemerges on HD DVD and the visuals are certainly improved, but that's it. Aside from the polished look, there is nothing else to distinguish this release from its previous incarnation on standard DVD. The extras are the same one from the Collector's Edition (feature commentary from Shadyac, "Bridging the Comedy Chasm" featurette, a deleted scene and brief gag reel) and the Dolby Digital 5.1 Plus upgrade is negligible. The picture is certainly pleasant to look out, the high points being the strong color work (Jennifer Tilly's yellow sweater leaps out of the screen and don't even get me started on her cleavage) and the detailing effects in the broader, establishment scenes; The sequence where Carrey's character chases a departing flight from LAX shine especially. But, frankly, the HD improvement isn't enough to validate a $30 re-dip. If you've got the movie on DVD, stick with it.
It's the best this so-so comedy has ever looked, but the HD-DVD falls short of generating a compelling enough reason to upgrade.
The accused pants are to be set on fire.
Review content copyright © 2007 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* DTS HD 5.1 EX (English)
* Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (French)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Director's Commentary
* "Bridging the Comedy Chasm" Featurette
* Deleted Scene