Liar, Liar

on March 21, 1997 by Wade Major
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The human cartoon is back with a vengeance. After his much-maligned detour into black comedy with "The Cable Guy," Jim Carrey returns to boxoffice-demolishing form with "Liar, Liar," a largely formulaic entry in the "neglectful dad" sweepstakes ("Jingle All the Way," "Hook," et al.) that's just hilarious enough to restore trust in the star's bankability.
   Carrey plays Fletcher Reede, a hopelessly dishonest (and successful) attorney whose aptitude for spinning convincing falsehoods has become such an integral part of his daily routine he hardly thinks twice about it. The only people who see through the facade are his secretary Greta (Anne Haney), his ex-wife Audrey (Maura Tierney) and young son Max (Justin Cooper) who, in a moment of extreme love and disappointment, makes a birthday wish for his dad to get through just one day without lying. Amazingly, the wish comes true<197>on the day of Fletcher's big divorce case hearing. As soon as Fletcher realizes that he is somehow being compelled to truthfully answer every question posed to him, the floodgates to comedy are thrown open and Carrey is free to strut his most manic, panic-stricken stuff.
   Though narratively unremarkable, "Liar, Liar" nevertheless has the distinction of actually having a narrative, an element sorely lacking in most of Carrey's previous outings. With liberal doses of sentiment thrown in to balance the slapstick, Carrey has his first-ever chance to act, creating some surprisingly watchable moments of genuine emotion between the obligatory outbursts.
   If anything, "Liar, Liar's" mix of mirth and madness follows in the mold of such Jerry Lewis classics as "Who's Minding the Store" and "The Disorderly Orderly." It's the first of Carrey's films to truly resemble those of the comic to whom he is so frequently compared. Reteaming with Carrey for the first time since "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective" launched both their careers, director Tom Shadyac ("The Nutty Professor") handles the action effectively enough, though it's hard to tell where Carrey's improvisational impulses leave off and Shadyac's instincts begin. Starring Jim Carrey, Maura Tierney, Jennifer Tilly, Cary Elwes and Justin Cooper. Directed by Tom Shadyac. Written by Paul Guay and Stephen Mazur. Produced by Brian Grazer. A Universal release. Comedy. Rated PG-13 for sex-related humor and language. Running time: 86 min
Tags: Jim Carrey, Maura Tierney, Jennifer Tilly, Cary Elwes and Justin Cooper. Directed by Tom Shadyac. Written by Paul Guay and Stephen Mazur. Produced by Brian Grazer. A Universal release. Comedy, comic, narrative, manic, hilarious
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