BIG FAT LIAR
Review by Michael Jacobson
Frankie Muniz, Paul Giamatti, Amanda Bynes
Director: Shawn Levy
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1
Video: Full Frame 1.33:1
Features: See Review
Length: 88 Minutes
Release Date: September 24, 2002
it from me, kid. The truth…is
do you call Big Fat Liar when it isn’t offered in widescreen?
Big Skinny Liar? More
on that further down…
Fat Liar is
one of the more pleasantly funny family film offerings I’ve seen in a while.
Two capable and likable young stars carry the story effortlessly, while
one comedy veteran turns in one of his most manically memorable performances
young stars are television’s Frankie Muniz from Malcolm in the Middle, and
Amanda Bynes from Nickelodeon. They
invest the script with humor, energy and chemistry, and they are the biggest
reason the picture works.
veteran is Paul Giamatti, who adds to his reputation as a comic actor with a
delightfully over the top performance that may just bring you to tears with
laughter. He and his young co-stars
make magic from start to finish.
plays 14 year old Jason Shepherd, a good kid with a fast tongue that tends to
get him both into and out of trouble. As
the movie starts, it’s the former. Failing
to complete a creative writing assignment for his English class (and to come up
with a viable excuse for it) may mean having to repeat the class in (gasp!)
he finishes his story on time. Unfortunately,
he accidentally meets up with ruthless Hollywood producer Marty Wolf (Giamatti),
and Wolf ends up with his paper…and begins to turn Jason’s story into the
most anticipated coming attraction of the year!
Poor Jason…with his reputation for lying, nobody believes his side of
the tale…not even his parents!
only one thing he can do to right the wrong and earn back the trust of those who
no longer believe him. With the
help of his best friend Kaylee (Bynes), Jason sets off for Hollywood and
Universal Studios in search of Marty. He
doesn’t want money, he doesn’t want story credit…he only wants Marty to
confirm the truth to his mom and dad. But
the dastardly Marty refuses…and Jason has not yet begun to fight!
film packs a winning energy that keeps you laughing, or at least smiling.
Jason and Kaylee take to their tasks like something out of Mission:
Impossible with an arsenal of movie props and magic at their disposal.
Again, the chemistry of the stars win out.
Just a simple scene of them cutting loose in a costume and prop warehouse
is a sheer delight!
course, there is a message to it all, and it’s no coincidence that by the time
Marty and Jason decide that THEIR version of “Big Fat Liar” needs a moral,
the Big Fat Liar we’re seeing learns it too.
And once clearly stated, it delves right back into the fun foray.
Ultimately, think of what Home Alone might have been with half a
brain, and you’ve just about nailed it.
Muniz may be young, but he plays comedy with all the experience of a seasoned
pro. His sense of rhythm and timing
is absolutely impeccable. But
fresh-faced Amanda Bynes is every bit his equal, never missing a beat as they
bat the dialogue back and forth like a ping pong ball.
There may not be a sequel to this movie in the works, but even if not,
I’d like to see more of them on screen together. They have what it takes to be this generation’s Mickey
Rooney and Judy Garland, perhaps.
Fat Liar is
a comedy triumph for the whole family…honest.
TRIVIA: Mr. Muniz and Ms.
Bynes aren’t the only TV stars to show up in this movie…keep an eye out for
the likes of Dustin Diamond, Jaleel White and Lee Majors!
Fat Liar loses
an extra * in this department for Universal’s atrocious decision not to issue
this title in widescreen. Framing
seems slightly off from beginning to end…an otherwise impressive directorial
effort from Shawn Levy has been reduced to something that looks like a film
school project. Colors are good
throughout, and images are generally sharp and clear, though a light smattering
of grain is noticeable from time to time…nothing distracting, just noteworthy.
I’ve been a big advocate of Universal’s efforts on DVD for several
years now, but someone has to tell it like it is…no widescreen, no sale.
the disc features both Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks (adding DTS audio to a
non-widescreen title is akin to putting a maraschino cherry on a turd).
Most of the film is dialogue oriented, but there are some comically
action-oriented scenes that really open up the dynamic range and both front and
rear stages. The .1 channel kicks
in during appropriate moments, and even gives the good song score a bit of extra
punch. Spoken words are always
clear, and no noise disrupts the production.
not labeled a Collector’s Edition disc, Big Fat Liar comes close.
The extras begin with two good commentary tracks.
The first, by director Levy, is the more informative in terms of the
what, who, when, and how details, while the second, by star Muniz, is more of a
fun listen. The young actor is a bit sparse once in a while, but he makes
up for it with humor and energy, and seems to be having a great time recording
the track. I think the kids will
even enjoy the listen.
is also a short Spotlight on Location featurette with cast and crew interviews,
about 15 minutes of deleted scenes, an interactive map of Universal Studios that
takes you to respective scenes in the film with a click, some extras for the
video game Spyro, production notes, talent files, a trivia game (that
leads to a few outtakes), plus an original trailer.
Both it and the deleted scenes are shown in widescreen…hmmm…
an added bonus, this disc boasts one of the best uses of menu screens of the
year. Star Amanda Bynes actually
interacts with the selections and talks to you as you peruse them…you also get
a quick preview of her new TV series on the WB network.
A nice touch!