A scene from 'Big Fat Liar'
Courtesy Photo
2.5 stars 88 minutes | Rated: PG
Opened: Friday, February 8, 2002
Directed by Shawn Levy

Starring Frankie Muniz, Paul Giamatti, Amanda Bynes, Amanda Detmer, Donald Faison, Lee Majors, Sandra Oh, John Cho, Russell Hornsby

Cameos: Jaleel White, Dustin Diamond, Kenan Thompson


A good rental for the kids. Fun enough to watch with them, but not a keeper.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 09.24.2002


 LINKS for this film
Official site
at movies.yahoo.com
at Rotten Tomatoes
at Internet Movie Database
Muniz goes to Hollywood to torment a producer who stole his homework in contrived but comical kids' flick

By Rob Blackwelder

Built on the long-labored template of a cute kid elaborately pranking crooked adults, "Big Fat Liar" is basically a junior high school "Home Alone"-meets-"Ferris Bueller" set on a Hollywood back lot.

A high-contrivance, low-ambition vehicle for "Malcolm In the Middle's" Frankie Muniz, the story is about a 7th-grader named Jason whose habit and talent for fibbing has gone way beyond "the dog ate my homework." His latest excuse for not turning in an essay is that a movie producer stole it while giving Jason (Muniz) a ride to school -- and is planning to take credit for the story while turning it into a summer blockbuster.

This time, however, Jason is telling the truth (it's a long story), and the only person who believes him is his cutie-pie best friend Kaylee (played by pubescent fashion plate Amanda Bynes of Nickelodeon's "The Amanda Show"). So during an unsupervised weekend, they hop a plane to Hollywood to exact revenge and make the Snidely Whiplash of a producer (Paul Giamatti) set the record straight with his teacher and his parents.

Finding this easier said than done, much hijinks ensue.

Despite being weakly scripted, cliché-driven, under-directed and over-acted, "Big Fat Liar" is kept afloat by the screwball performance of noisy nebbish character actor Giamatti ("Planet of the Apes," "Big Momma's House," "Man on the Moon"). He is hilarious as the ego-mad, ugly-plaid, thinks-he's-bad, movie magnate Marty Wolf, who is so desperate for a hit he'll stoop as low as stealing story ideas from a kid.

After laughing off Jason's modest request ("Call my dad...and you'll never hear from me again."), Wolf is subjected to dozens of comical torments that are funny mostly because Giamatti holds nothing back in his amusing miscreant performance.

The kids turn his skin blue by dumping dye in his swimming pool and his hair orange by doing the same with his shampoo. They super-glue his cell phone ear piece to his ear. They rewire the electronics in his car so it goes berserk. They lay hold of his palm-top organizer and wreak havoc on his schedule, even sending him to a little boy's birthday party instead of an important meeting. Being blue and orange and clad in his horrible wardrobe, he's mistaken for a clown and set upon by rambunctious children.

In between these episodes, Jason and Kaylee dodge stereotypically inept security guards and bunk down in a Universal Studios prop warehouse full of "Jurassic Park" 'raptors, "Back to the Future" DeLoreans, pinball machines, Velcro trampolines and other kids-in-a-candy-store goodies (enter giddy musical montage here).

Director Shawn Levy (another Nickelodeon alumni) makes little attempt to hide the movie's plot holes (Wolf never notices his Palm Pilot is missing, even though he's totally dependent on it) or disguise the fact that the flick was made on the cheap (50 percent of it was shot at stops on the Universal Studios tour). An ever-present antic energy seems to be Levy's only priority -- although there are a several crafty touches of Hollywood satire, including several cameos by former child stars from bad sitcoms.

But while "Big Fat Liar" hardly qualifies as archetypal kiddie fare -- especially since its finale is ridiculously, pointlessly convoluted -- as Saturday matinee fodder (or better yet, as a $3 rental in six months' time) it's amusing enough to recommend as fun for kids and agreeable for parents.


Buy from Amazon

Rent from Netflix

or Search for


powered by FreeFind
SPLICEDwire home
Online Film Critics Society
All Rights Reserved
Return to top
Current Reviews
SPLICEDwire Home