Liar Liar [HD DVD]
R0 - America - Universal Pictures
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (1st January 2008).
The Film

There's a term in the film industry when used to describe films like this, its 'high-concept comedy', what this means is that the premise for the film is unbelievable yet within the confines of the world the character exists in it's possible. "Liar Liar" is a perfect example of this type of film and Jim Carrey is no stranger to these types of films either, "The Mask" (1994), "Me, Myself & Irene" (2000) and "Bruce Almighty" (2003) all feature Carrey in various unbelievable situations and he plans to make a return to these types of films in 2009 with "Yes Man". But eleven years ago there was "Liar Liar" (it's almost impossible to believe that eleven years has past since this film came out!). Released at the height of Carrey's comedic reign the film was an immediate hit. I certainly recall seeing it theatrically and having a ball at just about everything Carrey did onscreen, the appeal is watching him make an ass of himself, pull ridiculous facial expressions and ham act his way through every scene. And no matter how silly it was he managed to illicit laughter, this is his gift, as a talented comedian the average and everyday can be uproariously funny. But alas, things do change over time and what I realized after watching this film today is that what I found funny eleven years ago, was not necessarily what I find funny today. While I didn't really laugh too much during the film, there were still little bits here and there that put a smile on my face, primarily consisting of Carrey making an ass of himself.
"Liar Liar" is about attorney Fletcher Reede (Jim Carrey), a lawyer that's driven to succeed even at the sake of his family, he's not ashamed to kiss a little ass or to have sex with the boss to advance his career and make partner. Fletcher also lies, a lot. He lies to win cases and most importantly he lies to his own son, Max (Justin Cooper) occasionally missing special events like birthdays. Saddened by his father's lies, Max makes a birthday wish that for one day Fletcher can't lie, that wish comes true. Fletcher's inability to lie causes him to have one of the worst days ever, he losses his secretary, almost losses his job, makes an ass of himself but also learns a few lessons including one that effectively puts him on track to be a better father, especially since his ex-wife Audrey (Maura Tierney) and boyfriend Jerry (Carey Elwes) are getting married and decide to move to Boston, which includes taking Max with them.
As far as a film goes there are many flaws within the framework of the narrative, forgetting the fact that the concept it not possible. But let's put that aside, after all it is a high-concept comedy. The biggest weakness is that premise of a guy that places-work-above-family-and-thus-neglects-said-family-only-to-eventaully-realize-said-neglect-and-aims-to-make-things-right is a 'been there done that' concept reused in so many comedies that it's almost insulting to keep rehashing it expecting audiences not to notice. The only thing that makes this mildly palpable is that Carrey does a fairly good job at playing this role, and his added comedic over-acting is really the showcase of this film. In saying that there are some mildly amusing moments scattered throughout the film all of which have Carrey acting a bit silly, making faces and the usual stuff he's known for. The scene where he beats himself up in the bathroom is of particular note and one that conjures up endless laughs.
Carrey is most clearly the driving force of the film and it seems like everyone else was cast to juxtapose the star in order for him to stand out even more. It's fair to say that the entire supporting cast delivers unmemorable performances with the exception of Jennifer Tilly, who manages to hold her own next to the excitable comedian. Then there's the kid, Justin Cooper. What is it about kids in comedies? I'm sure the filmmaker's aim to make them lovable and cute but they almost always end up being annoying, and that's just what Cooper is in this film.
Aside from some scattered funnies, the outtakes at the end also made me laugh, more so than the rest of the film. I guess some comedies don't really hold up too well after a few years, and I can't really imagine anyone desperately wanting this film in high-definition either, unless you really happen to be a die hard Carrey fan and have an HD set-up.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1, this high-definition widescreen transfer is presented in 1080p 24/fps and has been created using VC-1 compression. The transfer isn't too great; overall the image is a bit of a mixed bag. The film clearly needs a re-mastering but is it worth the trouble? I suppose Universal answered 'no' and thus we have this HD release which is a slight improvement over the DVD release but nothing to call home about. The image is sharp but there are bouts of softness, some colors appear flat and there is some murkiness especially in interior scenes. Grain is visible at times and there's noise amid the black levels. Exteriors look good and hold up well especially fine detail but this becomes a problem for the rest of the film and as a result the transfer feels inconsistent.

Audio

Two audio tracks are included on this release in English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 surround and French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 surround. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its English 5.1 track, being a comedy film don't expect a dynamic soundtrack. This track is fairly rudimentary and primarily front heavy. The film's reliance on dialogue is more than anything else sound-wise so ambient noise, directional effects and such are kept to a minimum. The film's score adds some depth but only just.
Optional subtitles are included in English for the hearing impaired and French.

Extras

Universal Pictures has included some of the extras from the 'Collector's Edition' DVD, they include the audio commentary, a deleted scene, some outtakes, a featurette and the film's original theatrical trailer. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

First up we've got a feature-length audio commentary with the film's director Tom Shadyac. Shadyac takes us through the film covering various aspects of the production but mainly focusing on the film's star and talking about how great he is at ad-libbing and making the scene laugh out loud funny. He comments on other things but sticks to Carrey for a lot of this track, in fact it gets a bit boring after a while and I found myself holding onto the 'fast-forward' button a lot.

Next up is "Bridging the Comedy Chasm" a featurette that runs for 15 minutes 42 seconds, this is another in a line of EPK clips we've seen a thousand times over. It features the stock standard stuff, interview clips with key cast and crew telling us about the film and how great it is as well as how wonderful everyone is and how much fun they had working with geniuses etc...edited together with some behind-the-scenes footage...next.

A deleted scene follows and runs for 3 minutes 52 seconds, this features Carrey putting on a show for the jury in defense of his client who is clearly a criminal.

A series of outtakes is next and runs for 1 minute 34 seconds, here you'll find some line flubs, missed cues and outbreaks of laugher, nothing too interesting or too funny.

Rounding out the extras is the film's original theatrical trailer which runs for 2 minutes 17 seconds.

It's not really an extra feature buy you can bookmark your favorite scenes using the 'MyScenes' feature.

Overall

The Film: C Video: C Audio: B- Extras: C+ Overall: C+

 


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