"Big Fat Liar", supported by some of the worst trailers I've seen for a film in recent memory, actually turns out to be a fine kid's picture - nothing too out-of-the-ordinary, but fun and witty enough to be a nice way to pass a little over an hour. The film stars Frankie Muniz of "Malcolm in the Middle", who is no stranger to theatrical films, as his performance in "My Dog Skip" was excellent. However, this is a role that essentially calls for the "Malcolm" character, only this time, without the kind of writing available on that show.
Here, Muniz plays Jason Shepard, a schoolkid who also happens to be a big liar. As the film opens, Jason barely makes it to class, lies about being late and puts another lie on top when he finds out that there was a paper due. His teacher gives him a few hours to write the paper and hand it in, but it's lost when Jason drops it in the car of movie producer Marty Wolf (Paul Giamatti), who gave him a ride after his limo hit him.
Jason finds himself in summer school, but when he goes to the movies with girlfriend Kaylee (Amanda Bynes), he sees a trailer for a movie that happens to be based upon the story he dropped. Given his past history of lying, nobody believes him, but when his parents go away for the week, he sets out to Hollywood with Kaylee to prove his side of the story.
While they don't have much luck with a face-to-face confrontation, the kids aren't going to give up, eventually enlisting the help of the producer's assistant (Amanda Detmer) and limo driver (Donald Faison). The performances in "Liar" often elevate the film above the material as, while there's a lot of aspects of a fun little tale involved, the film sometimes focuses (as the film's trailers did) on more slapstick than smarts. Muniz is entertaining, but Bynes is the real surprise of the film - the former Nickelodeon star steals a handful of scenes from her co-stars. Paul Giamatti also provides a nice, over-the-top parody of the stereotypical producer. While Donald Faison's brilliance can be seen more on "Scrubs" each week, his minor role as the limo driver is still entertaining.
"Big Fat Liar" is slight fare - I could easily imagine it being a TV movie instead - but it's still a fine effort from all involved.
VIDEO: A major disapointment, Universal has decided to only release this presentation in 1.33:1 full-frame. Given the lack of difference between the Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks included, I would have gladly not had the DTS soundtrack (and maybe some of the non-essential extras) dumped in favor of including an anamorphic widescreen presentation.
The full-frame presentation is of respectable quality, but does contain some noticable faults. Sharpness and detail are generally very good, with only a few exceptions where the picture slips into slight softness. Minor edge enhancement appeared on occasion, as did a few little instances of print flaws and a trace or two of pixelation.
This being a kid's picture, the color palette is bright and vivid, with well-saturated colors that appeared nicely rendered on this presentation. Black level was solid, while flesh tones looked accurate. There's really no reason that a widescreen presentation couldn't have been included here and it's unfortunate that one wasn't.
SOUND: "Big Fat Liar" is presented in both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 on this presentation. While I appreciate the addition of the DTS track, it really doesn't make any difference on this soundtrack. Aside from a few instances of music, the surrounds remained largely silent. Audio quality was fine, as the music seemed lively and energetic, while dialogue was crisp and clear.
MENUS: The menus provide some slight background animation featuring star Amanda Bynes.
Commentaries: "Big Fat Liar" offers two commentary tracks: one by star Frankie Muniz and the other by director Shawn Levy and cinematographer Jonathan Brown. The cinematographer/director commentary was really quite enjoyable, as the two rarely narrated the film or concentrated on praise. Their chat was an informative mix of discussion about the actors, talk about the production, achieving the look of the film or stories from the set. The Muniz commentary is enjoyable, as well: while the star occasionally talks about how great everything was or what's currently going on in the story, he approaches the discussion with the same amount of energy and enthusiasm as his performance.
Also: 11-minute "Spotlight On Location" promotional featurette; 14-minutes worth of deleted footage (no optional commentary; trivia challenge; Big Fat Liar interactive game; Universal Studios Backlot interactive map; "Spyro" game trailer; theatrical trailer; production notes; cast/crew bios; recommendations and DVD-ROM features.
Final Thoughts: "Big Fat Liar" is a cute movie with some fun moments and solid performances. Universal's DVD offers fine audio, good supplements...and a disapointing full-frame presentation.
The Film ** 1/2