Directed by Shawn Levy. USA. 2002.

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Right now my daughter is of the perfect movie going age. Iím having a great time taking her to things like Monsters Inc. and Harry Potter and the Philosopherís Stone, and am looking forward to the re-release of E.T. and Ice Age. I shudder to think what the movie going environment will be like for us when she hits the pre-teen years (assuming I havenít changed as all parents do for their children at that age, into a hideous embarrassment) as that seems to be the range that Big Fat Liar is targeting. ďWhy wonít someone make a movie for pre-teens that parents can enjoy too?Ē I said to myself, envisioning the ads that make Big Fat Liar look like a slightly more classy version of Home Alone 3. I ask this because as I write this opening paragraph I am in a theatre full of excited children trying to look bored (as only thirteen year olds can) and adults who are all wearing the same facial expression as one might sport to a tax audit. 

After watching this movie however, I find that I no longer want to write this review, for if I do Iíll have to discard all my pre-viewing witty jabs, and replace them with the admission that I thought this was really cute.

Big Fat Liar. All rights Reserved.Big Fat Liar is the story of Jason Shepard , a notorious liar with the reputation of being able to wiggle his way out of anything. On the way to hand in a paper that will save him from months of summer school, Jason is struck by a limo containing big shot Hollywood producer; Marty Wolf and manages to leave the important assignment behind in the car. When Jasonís piece of work gets turned into the script for next summerís big blockbuster movie, Jason sets out to Los Angeles for revenge

Frankie Muniz (TVís Malcolm in the Middle) stars as Jason Shepard, and watching him I couldnít help but think his fourteen year old crusader was a slightly less polite version of his young genius television persona. Luckily, in this case it works. Heís got an earnestness to his portrayal, but falls behind in abilities when compared to others in his age range, like Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense, Pay it Forward). Still Muniz does have a definite onscreen charm, bringing a level of his TV Malcolmís intelligence to Shepard making his turn seem a bit more adult. 

Amanda Bynes (in her feature film debut) stars as Jasonís best friend Kaylee, who accompanies him to Los Angeles on the search for the rogue film producer.  Sadly, the script demotes her from co-conspirator, to little more than scenery. Something I would like to see more of in films for this age group are roles that embody strength and smarts in the younger female characters. Bynes does do quite a lot with the little character development she has to work with, giving her part so much sparkle that I would have quite enjoyed seeing her given more to do. 

Paul Giamatti (Planet of the Apes, (2001) Man on the Moon) plays the evil movie producer Marty Wolf. Watching him revel in every moment he has onscreen I canít help but wonder if the Home Alone series might have been more watchable if Giamatti had been involved. His Hollywood bigwig is nearly cartoonish; a perfect sort of villain for this type of movie. 

The big problem Big Fat Liar faces is poor marketing. I suspect the executives in all their brilliance decided to target their promotional spots directly at their intended ten to fourteen year old viewing audience. I have a bit of news for them..... Parents of the ten to fourteen year olds are the ones paying the admission prices. If we donít laugh at your previews, no amount of cajoling will get us through the theatre door. Instead of showing Marty Wolf dyed blue in the ads, why not give us some shots of the cameos of people like the marvellous Sandra Oh (Double Happiness) or the six million dollar man himself; Lee Majors. Why not even one or two of the genuine laughs the movie has to offer? Big Fat Liar is genuinely loveable but without a revamped ad campaign, weíre all going to troupe down to the theatre down the hall and watch Harry Potter again.     

Jen Johnston
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