Big Fat Liar

"The truth: it's overrated."

Big Fat Liar is pretty much the opposite of Disney’s The Kid. Instead of a kid gently showing a nasty, Machiavellian businessman what it’s like to be a child, he viciously beats him into submission. I was really looking forward to seeing it. It has both a good concept and a promising cast, including Paul Giamatti, one of the best working character actors, and Frankie Muniz, who garners laughs so effortlessly on his tv show. And, as often happens, the film’s utter failure isn’t their fault. It’s the fault of whoever thought that this script was filmable.

Against all odds, the movie is a complete dead zone. I think I may have the broadest sense of humor of anyone I know, and Big Fat Liar did not make me laugh even once. I may have smiled at some point, I’m not sure. It is the very definition of “waste”: not a single drop of wit is injected into a promising storyline; opportunities for an actual joke just hang there waiting for someone to capitalize. No one ever does.

The plot of the movie — a retelling of The Boy Who Cried Wolf — is so good, I was overwhelmed with the yearning to direct it myself. Jason Shepherd (Muniz) is a habitual liar who has become notorious in his school for his ability to weasel out of the tightest spots with a well-told tale. But one day, when he neglects to complete an essay for a school assignment, he gets caught. The teacher gives him an opportunity to redo it and, miracle of miracles, he does. On the way to school, proudly carrying his masterwork, he gets nearly run over by a limousine and gets himself a ride with its inhabitant, famous Hollywood producer Marty Wolf. When they get to the school and he scrambles out, the essay falls out of his schoolbag.

A few months later, Jason sees a commercial for a new movie in development: an elaborate production entitled “Big Fat Liar,” produced by none other than Marty Wolf. He realizes that the idea for the movie is stolen right out of his essay. He and his best friend (Amanda Bynes) run away to Hollywood to make Wolf confess to the source of his inspiration; you see, Jason just wants to convince his dad that he isn’t a big fat liar.

An example of the film’s gross incompetence can be found in it’s centerpiece Joke, in which the kids put some sort of permanent paint into Wolf’s pool, turning him blue from head to toe when he goes in for his daily swim. There is so much to be done with the concept of a blue guy running around Hollywood. Unfortunately, he is turned blue for the sole purpose of later allowing a tow truck guy to deliver the following line of wit and wisdom: “They told me to pick up a little blue car. They didn’t say anything about a LITTLE BLUE MAN!”

That, dear readers, is the extent of the writers’ sense of humor. The problem isn’t that the jokes fall flat, but that there aren’t any. I would have appreciated at least a college try. The movie thinks it’s being funny simply by throwing concepts up on the screen. It hammers to death the idea that Marty Wolf is a real bastard, and by the halfway point the sight of him harassing yet another innocent underling becomes nauseating. As for Jason, well, he earns back his father’s trust by going off to Hollywood on his own, hiding away in a studio warehouse, and stalking a producer, which is neat because I thought that all of those things were against the law.

Big Fat Liar is startling in its awfulness. Usually a movie this bad would trigger a suspicion that the filmmakers did it on purpose, but it is painfully obvious that the affliction it suffers from is simply an utter lack of wit and intelligence. Please, take your kids to E.T. instead.

-- Eugene Novikov

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Screening Log


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Score: C+

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Score: B-

The Place Beyond the Pines

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Score: B+

Warm Bodies

Jonathan Levine, 2013

Score: C

Beautiful Creatures

Richard LaGravanese, 2013

Score: B-

The Window

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Score: B+

The Chase

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Score: B

Street of Chance

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Score: C

The Taste of Money

Im Sang-Soo, 2013

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