Big Fat Liar, directed by Shawn Levy and starring Frankie Muniz, Paul Giamatti, and Amanda Bynes, marks 20 years since its 2002 release.
What makes this rewatch so interesting is all the change in Hollywood since its release. Marty Wolf (Paul Giamatti) would not be able to get away with his antics today. It is beyond impossible. Hell, he even uses the R word, which is an absolute no. Dan Schneider penned the script with now-Paramount president Brian Robbins. Interestingly, Robbins was initially attached to direct before Shawn Levy took over directing duties. I can’t help but wonder if they modeled Wolf after any one producer. You look at Marty Wolf and see a producer like Scott Rudin and others. Regardless, Wolf would be shown the door or on a tight leash today.
Jason Shepherd (Frankie Muniz) is a compulsive liar. He lies so much that people can’t even believe him anymore. Eighth-grade English teacher Phyllis Caldwell (Sandra Oh) catches Jason in the act. He ends up writing his creative writing assignment, a creative writing essay titled Big Fat Liar. Unfortunately, he gets hit by Marty Wolf’s limo and accidentally leaves his essay behind. Nobody believes him, not even later that summer when he sees a teaser trailer for the upcoming Big Fat Liar. With his parents not believing him, Jason feels he has no choice but to travel cross country to Los Angeles with best friend Kaylee (Amanda Bynes) when both of their parents are out of town.
They head to Universal Studios where they end up sneaking onto the lot and into Marty’s office. All Jason wants is Marty to confess to his father. Marty refuses and with the help of actor/limo driver Frank Jackson (Donald Faison), the war is on. When one is an asshole producer, they make many enemies from their own employees, etc. Everything starts when they dye his pool blue, pour hair dye into his shampoo bottle, and superglue his headset. Following this, they trick him into attending a children’s birthday party and then tamper with his car. Marty still refuses to relent but after new Universal president Marcus Duncan (Russell Hornsby) starts losing confidence in him after Whitaker and Fowl fails, he starts working with Jason when it comes to Big Fat Liar. Or so we think…because an asshole will always be an asshole!
Instead of calling Jason’s parents, Marty calls security. Marty’s assistant, Monty Kirkham (Amanda Detmer), grows tired of him and decides enough is enough. Jason and Kaylee gather the employees around and go through their plan. All the while, Jason’s parents fly out to LA when Jason admits the truth. Meanwhile, the likes of Frank, Jaleel White, and stunt coordinator Vince (Lee Majors) do their part in delaying Marty. When Marty catches Jason with Mr. Funnybones, he chases him through the studio lot. Ultimately, the chase concludes on top of a roof where Marty admits the truth. All caught on camera with thanks to director Dusty Wong’s (John Cho) idea of shooting with multiple cameras. In the end, Marty loses his job and Jason attends the premiere of Big Fat Liar with his family, Kaylee, and Ms. Caldwell. The moral of the story is that the truth is not overrated.
The nice thing about shooting on Universal Studios is that they take advantage of the entire backlot. Not to mention the studio tour, of course. If you look or listen closely, you can hear parts of John Williams’s scores to both Jaws and Jurassic Park. When Monty is on the phone at one point, the house from Psycho is in the background. One of the Western sets is on the screen as Morricone’s score plays alongside it.
Watching this film, just like a few weeks back when I did a rewatch of What a Girl Wants, is a reminder of how talented that Amanda Bynes is on screen. I love the on-screen chemistry between the two. It doesn’t feel forced and their chemistry helps provide a lot of the film’s energy. As a side note, Lindsay Lohan was originally attached to the role. It’s hard seeing anyone else but Amanda in the role. Funny enough, this film is Amanda’s feature film debut.
Twenty years later, Big Fat Liar is still a funny film. If anything, it also offers a lesson in how producers should not behave. Yes, the film is full of Hollywood clichés and juvenile behavior but comedy is in right now. Or at least, that’s how it is over here after almost two years of the pandemic. I’ve got a fever and the only prescription is more comedy!
DIRECTOR: Shawn Levy
SCREENWRITER: Dan Schneider
CAST: Frankie Muniz, Paul Giamatti, Amanda Bynes, Amanda Detmer, Donald Faison, Sandra Oh, Russell Hornsby, Michael Bryan French, Christine Tucci, and Lee Majors
Universal released Big Fat Liar in theaters on February 8, 2002.
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