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'Liar Liar': To Tell the Truth, It's Really Pretty Good

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
March 21, 1997

In his meteoric rise from "In Living Color's" second banana to top of the bunch, Jim Carrey has made maximus use of the gluteus -- his own bruised bum and, in one case, that of an unsuspecting rhinoceros. He has, as it were, given new meaning to the word "wisecrack."

While Carrey does not altogether abandon the bottom in the laudable "Liar Liar," the facile physical comedian does add a new toot to his horn. Essentially, he removes the red rubber nose and plays a realistic human being. Like Robin Williams, Carrey has learned to do his side-splitting shtick in character. He's not only under control, but funnier than ever as the truth-impaired Fletcher Reede.

Fletcher, an unscrupulous trial lawyer who puts his career before his family, is hardly an original in yuppie iconography. A habitual liar both in and out of court, Fletcher always wins his cases, but he's a loser in his personal life. His ex-wife, Audrey (Maura Tierney), is about to remarry a nerd (Cary Elwes) who is attempting to take Fletcher's place with his 5-year-old son, Max (Justin Cooper).

Though Fletcher seldom shows up as promised and Max usually rebounds, the moppet is devastated when his father misses his birthday party. Once again he calls Audrey with a work-related excuse, only this time, Max doesn't buy it -- and before blowing out his birthday candles, the child wishes that "for just one day, Dad couldn't tell a lie."

Apparently the truth fairy is listening, because Max's wish comes true. Fletcher is taken by complete surprise when he responds candidly to a lecherous senior partner's post-coital query: "Was it good for you?" ("I've had better," he ripostes.) To his distress, even innocuous inquiries from panhandlers and colleagues elicit unvarnished responses instead of the little white lies that civility demands.

The stakes increase along with the high jinks when Fletcher finally takes one of his bogus cases to court and, to his horror, opens his mouth and out comes the whole truth and nothing but. It's as if Mr. Hyde were possessed by Dr. Jekyll and forced to be nice while still aware of his fiendish nature.

Carrey is reunited here with Tom Shadyac, who not only directed Carrey's debut, "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective," but also helmed Eddie Murphy's remake of "The Nutty Professor." Here, as in Murphy's movie, Shadyac never lets the star's comic ingenuity overwhelm the character or story, yet still leaves room for spontaneity. He allows Carrey his sins of emission, but prevents the "Liar Liar's" pants from catching fire.

Liar Liar is rated PG-13 for language and adult situations.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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