The fundamental flaw with *Liar Liar*, or any other Jim Carrey movie, is that it’s like an action movie with no special effects. Imagine watching Schwarzenegger for two hours without a single explosion, car chase or shoot-out. What you’re left with is one of Schwarzenegger’s comedies, which, we can all agree, are not very funny. Now, there’s a case to be made that the goo-faced Carrey comes with his own special effects. Assuming that’s true, those who find Carrey endlessly amusing won’t mind that nothing actually happens in *Liar Liar*. The hundredth time around, however, Carrey’s effects seem somewhat less than special, and his latest showcase, *Liar Liar*, is thus only occasionally amusing.
*Liar Liar* takes what can’t be more than a 15 minute script and stretches it way out to feature film length. The premise is a good one: Fletcher Reede (Carrey) is a compulsive liar and a lawyer who is forced to tell the truth for just one day. He lies to everybody: strangers, his colleagues, his clients, the court, his harridan boss Miranda (Amanda Donohoe), his patient ex-wife Audrey (Maura Tierney) and his five year old son Max (Justin Cooper). Everybody is satisfied with this arrangement except little Max, who makes a birthday wish -- that for 24 hours Dad can’t lie -- that comes true.
Naturally, it happens on the biggest day of Fletcher’s career, when he is battling a big divorce case for a philandering floozy (Jennifer Tilly) and trying to make partner in his law firm. And naturally, being compelled to tell the truth completely ruins his life, his career and his health.
For the next hour, the truth really hurts as Fletcher leaps around, beats himself up (in body and conscience), screams, rolls his eyes, makes with the rubber-faced antics, and generally overreacts in a big way to everything, all in a failed effort to avoid telling the truth. Meanwhile, everybody around Fletcher is offended by his compulsive truth-telling. They were actually happier when Fletcher lied to them, but that’s only because everybody in Fletcher’s life is a mere caricature, an obese lawyer, a buxom neighbor, a goofy secretary, a himbo witness. When he lied, Fletcher at least treated them like people, but telling the truth limits him to insulting their prominent features. The message of *Liar Liar* isn’t that lying is bad -- in fact, there isn’t much of a down side to lying in this movie -- but that fatherhood is good, and good fathers don’t lie to their kids. That’s a fine idea for a public service announcement, but it’s a tad frugal for a whole movie.
After about 20 minutes, Carrey’s spastic Stooge on speed schtick loses its spontaneity and feels forced, and since the rest of the cast doesn’t do anything but react to Carrey, *Liar Liar* loses steam at exactly the point where it should really go wild. Director Tom Shadyac (*Ace Ventura: Pet Detective*) doesn’t do much more than turn the cameras on Carrey and let ‘em roll here; the script by Paul Guay and Stephen Mazur contains skimpy portions of magic and whimsy that are really out of place amid all the broad and obvious Jim-foolery.
A little Jim Carrey goes a long way, and paradoxically, the converse is equally true. Even in excess, a rubbery comic like Carrey can only stretch a thin plot so far -- *Liar Liar* stretches it past that point and then some.