Februrary 12, 2002 -- "Big, Fat Liar" is a funny little teenage comedy, sans the usual bathroom and sexual humor. It is light and generally well-acted. This is one of the rarest kinds of films: a family-oriented non-Disney film that is actually funny without hitting below the belt.
Frankie Muniz of "My Dog Skip" and the "Malcolm in the Middle" TV series) stars as the mendacious teenager, Jason Shepherd. His friend, Kaylee (played by Amanda Bynes of "The Nightmare Room," "The Amanda Show" and "All That" TV series) often helps him with his prevarications. He goes to the well once too often, however, and is accused of not doing his makeup homework assignment when a ruthless movie producer Marty Wolf (Paul Giamatti of "Duets") steals his school paper and turns it into a movie script. Since Jason has no credibility, nobody believes him, except for Kaylee. Jason finally realizes the heavy cost of all his lying and decides he needs to find a way to let his parents trust him again.
Jason and Kaylee head off to Hollywood to confront Wolf, who refuses to confess to his crime. Jason proceeds to wage war on Wolf, using various nasty tricks to make his life so miserable that he will be forced to confess. If this sounds like a Disney movie, it isn't, but it might as well be. The acting is solid, with Giamatti having great fun chewing up the scenery as the nasty, but silly movie executive. Giamatti has such nervous energy in the film, it looks as though he is mainlining cafeine. Frankie Muniz and Amanda Bynes are very likeable heroes. They do all these awful things to Wolf, but manage to seem perfectly innocent while doing so. The seldom-seen Lee Majors ("The Six Million Dollar Man" TV series and "Out Cold") appears as a veteran stuntman in the film. Jaleel White (he played Steven Quincy 'Steve' Urkel on the "Family Matters" TV show) plays himself starring in one of Wolf's productions, "Whitaker & Fowl," as a cop whose partner is a crime-fighting chicken. It is a pretty funny parody of the mismatched cop partner genre.
There are lots of movie in-jokes like that in the film. The story is not afraid to make fun of Hollywood. This is one of relatively few films willing to show the silly side of Hollywood, maybe because the screenwriters and directors all come from television, rather than movie backgrounds. There is also a message in the film about the value of telling the truth. The film is generally harmless fun. The story is not believable in the least, but it is not supposed to be. There is a genuine aura of craziness about the film as Wolf carries on conversations with his stuffed monkey and his secretary plays with toy animals. It is kind of surrealistic in a way. This is a very broad comedy, yet relatively tastefully done. The film is fast-paced and the screenplay shows some good imagination. This film rates a C+.
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