Big Fat Liar

January 28, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Jason Shepherd (Frankie Muniz) has some wild stories to tell, adventures, comedies, and all sorts of other tales, but there’s one simple problem with the stories he tells, as none of them ever happened. No, Jason has a history of making up stories, poor excuses, and lying in almost all situations, to the point where no one believes a word he says. This will soon come back to haunt him however, as just when he needs people to believe him and help him out of trouble, they decide they’ve heard enough of his stories. After he pens a great paper for English class, one that will save him the pain of summer school, he finds himself without it, after it is taken by a Hollywood movie executive Marty Wolf (Paul Giamatti). Wolf is no stranger to deception and takes Jason’s work, then turns into a movie that should land him some serious power in the business, not to mention a few loads of cash to boot. But even when no one believes him, Jason sets off to reclaim his paper and clear his name, with his best friend Kaylee (Amanda Bynes) by his side. But has this boy cried wolf once too many times?

I went to see this movie because of the presence of Paul Giamatti, but in the end, I should have waited for the home video release. In truth, Big Fat Liar seems like one extended promotional piece for Universal Studios, Coca-Cola, and assorted other sponsors, with some marginal cinematic elements thrown in at the last second. The movie starts off well enough, but soon after it kicks off, it never leaves the Universal lot and while some cool subtle (and not so subtle) movie references are found, it still seems like one ninety minute commercial. I know product placement is commonplace, but this is often too much and distracts from the experience. Which is a shame, as the premise is solid and Giamatti hands in an enjoyable performance, even with below average character development and poor surrounding talent. I wasn’t all the way let down though, as some nice moments emerge and some solid laughs come through, but it seems as though the material could have been tweaked a little, to improve it quite a bit. I can’t recommend Universal’s disc either, as they’ve opted to not include a widescreen option here. So unless you can somehow see it for free, I recommend waiting for a proper (i.e. widescreen) release of Big Fat Liar.

As I stated before, the main reason I went to the theater to see this film was Paul Giamatti, who has been in some terrific pictures of late. But even when the movie remains lackluster, Giamatti is usually able to suck it up and deliver a good performance, despite lack of character depth or impressive lines to rattle. So I knew that even if Big Fat Liar stunk to high heaven, Giamatti would be good, though I hoped the movie would be solid also. As it turns out, Giamatti is the high spot of the picture and does hand in a good effort, but as the material leaves him little space to showcase his talents, his work here is a step below the usual. Other films with Giamatti include Planet of the Apes, Duets, Big Momma’s House, Storytelling, and Donnie Brasco. The cast also includes Frankie Muniz (My Dog Skip, Tv’s Malcolm in the Middle), Amanda Bynes (American Girl, Tv’s All That), and Amanda Detmer (Saving Silverman, The Majestic).

Video: How does it look?

Big Fat Liar is presented in a full frame transfer, which bastardizes the film’s intended 1.85:1 widescreen presentation. After some bad early releases, it seemed as though Universal understood fans want to see the movies as intended, but with this disc, they’ve taken a few steps backwards and then some. Yes, aside from the altered visual compositions this is a good looking treatment, but if you ask me, that’s a moot point. I mean, what good is a sharp and impressive transfer without an original aspect ratio option? I hope Universal comes to their senses and releases a widescreen option soon, as fans will not purchase this tampered edition.

Audio: How does it sound?

The video might be lackluster, but the audio is superb, thanks to Universal’s extra effort to include both Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks. Its odd however, since those viewers who want full frame probably don’t even own surround sound, so why bother including a DTS option? In any event, both soundtracks are very good and I could find little difference between them, even after a couple spins to compare them in depth. I wasn’t expecting much in terms of audio, but there’s a nice amount of punch, depth, and presence, making either option a terrific choice indeed. I do think the music is mixed in a little on the loud side, but dialogue isn’t hampered as a result, so no need to be concerned on that front. This disc also includes a French language track, as well as subtitles in English and Spanish, should you need those.

Supplements: What are the extras?

A pair of audio commentaries kick off the extras here, one with director Shawn Levy and the other with star Frankie Muniz. But don’t get too excited, as these would have been better as an edited single session, since neither provides enough worthwhile comments to maintain audience interest. You can browse some deleted scenes too, which offer a handful of sequences sliced from the finished version. This disc also includes a trivia game, Are You a Big Fat Liar interactive quiz, a brief behind the scenes featurette, some hints for the various Spyro video games, and a quick tour of the Universal Studios backlot. Sounds like a lot, but once you’re past the commentary tracks and deleted scenes, its all promotional fluff and little else.

Disc Scores