Plot: What’s it about?
In the ghettos of Lodz during World War II, there was not much to be hopeful for, as the area is under German control and little can be done about it. Jakob Heym (Robin Williams) lives there, and one day he overhears a radio broadcast which details a success in defeating the Germans, which fills him with hope and excitement. He sees how much difference a little news of hope can do, and he quickly begins to inform others around him of the news he heard, and they too are happy and hopeful after hearing it. With little else to look forward to and be hopeful for, Jakob starts to spread word of other radio broadcasts that tell of the Germans facing defeat, and the Allied powers coming closer to victory. But, these messages are not true, as Jakob makes them up in order to keep his friends and neighbors in high spirits. When the Germans recieve word of these “broadcasts,” they become upset, since owning a radio there is not allowed. While Jakob continues to report these false, but inspiring broadcasts, the Germans look to seek out who owns the radio, and put an end to this all.
Now, the first thing I want to say about this is that just because Robin Williams in this, that doesn’t make this a comedy. Sure, there are comedic moments, but this is dramatic Robin, not slapstick Robin, so don’t expect non stop laughs. I do feel fans of Williams will enjoy this movie though, as he gives a heartfelt and moving performance, but more on that later. When I received this disc, I expected an overly sappy drama, but what I found instead was a very entertaining and emotional movie. This is a remake of sorts, but I haven’t seen the original version, so I can’t comment on which was better. The movie offers a look at some unique personalities under extreme duress, and paints a very humanist portrait of them. I recommend this movie as a rental to Williams fans and any readers who appreciate humanist dramas. If you find yourself liking the film, Columbia has issued a wonderful disc, and you should pick it up without hesitation.
As I mentioned above, Robin Williams is the leading actor in Jakob the Liar. While he is best known for his comedic efforts, he has also spun some wonderful dramatic performances as well. This turn would place another dramatic turn in his hat, and he does a terrific job here. Williams (Good Will Hunting, Mrs. Doubtfire) shows a very impressive dramatic range here, more so than his other efforts I feel. He also sprinkles the role with humor here and there, but never does the character suffer because of it. Even with a strong lead performance from Williams, the movie needs a good supporting cast, and thankfully, it has one. Alan Arkin (Slums of Beverly Hills, Grosse Point Blank), Armin Muelller-Stahl (Shine, The Game), Bob Balaban (Clockwatchers), Liev Schreiber (The Hurricane, Phantoms), and Michael Jeter (The Green Mile, Patch Adams) all help flesh out the movie’s cast of characters.
Video: How does it look?
Jakob the Liar is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, with an option for full frame also included. Columbia has once again proven why they are among the elite in DVD, with another great visual transfer. The visual style of this film is very dark and natural, so I was hesitant as to how the transfer would be. I was very pleased upon viewing however, as the contrast levels are deep and accurate. The shadows are layered well, and no detail loss can be found, even in the darkest sections of the screen. Colors are on a natural spectrum, so they aren’t as bright as some movies, but they are replicated well, with no bleeding present.
Audio: How does it sound?
This movie is mostly driven by dialogue, but the sound experience was more enveloping that I expected. The dialogue comes through well, with high grade clarity and consistent volume, and no separation issues to report, either. There is some nice subtle use of the surrounds, which won’t blow you away, but adds to the movie experience quite a bit. The score is likely the most active portion of the audio, and it sounds very full and rich.
Supplements: What are the extras?
You have to love it when a good movie gets a great treatment on DVD, don’t ya? This disc includes the usual production notes and talent files, but is missing the theatrical trailer, which sucks. Also on the disc is a “making of” featurette, which is fairly shallow, clocking in at around six minutes. Two bonus audio tracks are jammed on the disc as well, one a director’s commentary, the other an isolated musical score. I enjoy the isolated scores, and this was no exception. The commentary is well done, with no serious gaps and plenty of information.