Published March 1, 1997
Liar Liar is another high-concept movie, this one directed by Tom Shadyac, who also directed Jim Carrey’s breakthrough film, Ace Ventura, Pet Detective. Here Carrey appears as Fletcher Reede, a shyster lawyer whose five year old son, Max (Justin Cooper) makes a birthday wish that, just for one day, his father cannot tell a lie. The mechanism by which this bit of magic works is allowed to remain a mystery, but it does, and the adventures of a habitual liar who cannot lie make up the humor (such as it is) of the film. Some, it is true, will no doubt find more humor in the grotesque mugging and manic energy of Mr Carrey—in short, the qualities which have made him famous. But these frantic efforts to gain my approval leave me cold.
Fletcher is divorced from Max’s mother, Audrey (Maura Tierney), and she is being wooed by a jerk of a hospital administrator called Jerry (Cary Elwes). You know he’s a jerk because he is reliable, truthful, ingenuous and decent, and all without the intervention of supernatural authority. Of course it would be hoping for too much for Fletcher actually to learn anything from his own experience as an unwonted truth-teller—apart, that is, from the safe Hollywood lesson that it is always good to spend more time with your kids. He doesn’t even suffer materially, and in a nasty divorce case where his whole strategy had been based on lying, he simply finds another way to win. We can’t have people thinking that it actually might cost you something to be truthful. Still, there are some good jokes based on the concept. The best comes when one of Fletcher’s bad guy clients calls him from jail, after having been arrested knocking over an ATM machine, for “legal advice”
Fletcher shouts into the phone: “Stop breaking the law, a******!.”