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On March 21, 1997, Universal unveiled Jim Carrey’s latest comedic star vehicle, the blockbuster Liar Liar. The Hollywood Reporter’s original review is below:
Jim Carrey has reconnected his comedy wire with Liar Liar, an electric, warm-spirited merriment that melds Carrey’s hyperkinetic talents with a heart-tugging story. Sagely directed by Tom Shadyac, Liar Liar should chart higher and higher at the box office for Universal. In truth, Liar will be a colossal hit, appealing to kids on spring break as well as every species of Carrey’s wide and nutty following.
In Liar Liar, Carrey plays Fletcher, a trial lawyer so smooth, brazen and utterly unencumbered by notions of fair play that one suspects that O.J. will use the role as a yardstick in selecting his appeals attorney. Outrageously successful in his professional life, Fletcher has drawn a hung jury in his personal life. His ex-wife (Maura Tierney) is on the verge of remarrying while his 5-year-old son, Max (Justin Cooper), whom he adores, has reached an age in which workaholic Dad’s absence is noted. Making partner is Fletcher’s top priority, and professional white lies are a day-to-day necessity for the attorney.
While white lies are considered largely innocuous in the hard, adult world, to his young son they are tantamount to betrayal. When Fletcher misses Max’s birthday because of a heavy workload (banging a horny partner), Max makes a wish: that Daddy will not utter an untruth for 24 hours.
In Paul Guay and Stephen Mazur’s slyly subversive scenario, the glad-handing, unctuous lawyer, whose prior mouthings consisted solely of self-serving deceptions, now can only tell the truth.
And, as we all know, a little truth can go a long way, especially in Fletcher’s case, as he immediately gets himself into hot water with a candid assessment of his boss’ performance in the sack. While dishing out a devilishly delirious series of quicky sillies, having Fletcher speak the truth to assorted panhandlers and barristers, Guay and Mazur have wrapped these instant hilarities around a larger theme, that honesty is the best policy, and, best of all, have tied it to Fletcher’s genuine love for his child.
What truly makes Liar Liar work, however, is Shadyac’s inspired sense of comic proportion. While torquing the hilarities to the max, he never loses sight of the story’s important human side. His blend of farce with heart is perfect.
With his protean pyrotechnical prowess coming out both sides of his mouth and form, Carrey has never been better — that is to say funnier, or more controlled. He’s reached a higher performance plateau here, playing a real human being we care about rather than a goon figure. Credit to the supporting cast, particularly young Cooper, who wins our affection as the irrepressible Max.
Other players are similarly well cast, including Amanda Donohoe as the predatory law partner and Anne Haney as Fletcher’s no-nonsense secretary. Tierney conveys warm levelheadedness as Fletcher’s ex-wife, while Jennifer Tilly ditzes it up perfectly as a modern-day gold digger.
Technical contributions are finer and finer, particularly cinematographer Russell Boyd’s homey hues and costume designer Judy L. Ruskin’s tangy threads. — Duane Byrge, originally published on March 17, 1997.
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