For some reason—maybe my street cred’ isn’t what it used to be—I’m compelled to search for gritty classic screenplays to review. Maybe I could try and convince you that Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas might fit in the Classic Screenplay canon, but sorry folks, it just doesn’t do much for me.
Street cred’ be damned, because dangnabbit, I love the pride Forrest exudes when he says he can run like the wind blows. I dig this moment from Independence Day, cheesy as it is:
David turns and walks away, Constance following.
Constance: I don’t understand why you can’t just show someone how to plant the virus, somebody trained for this kind of mission?
David: If anything goes wrong I’ll have to think quickly, adjust the signal, who knows?
David stops, picking up a soda can.
David: You know how I’m always trying to save the planet?
David throws the can into a trashcan labeled “recycle”.
David: This is my chance.
David rushes off. Constance watches him leave.
Constance: Now he gets ambitious.
It’s a great moment—it’s great screenwriting: showing while telling.
And so though it may be cheesy and unable to help my street cred’, I’m submitting Liar Liar into the Classic Screenplay canon.
Anyone familiar with screenwriting buzzwords like ‘elevator pitches’ and ‘loglines’ know how profound the idea behind Liar Liar is. Ideally, an idea for a movie can be sold in a single sentence, or in the time it takes to ride up an elevator; so when you’re able to blurt out, An attorney can’t tell a lie for a day… boom! You just made a Hollywood executive unload his testicular reservoirs!
Such a simple idea alone almost qualifies Liar Liar as a classic screenplay. But when you make that attorney a habitual liar, a divorcee, and a bad father whose son wishes he can’t tell a lie the day before he’s due in court to deceitfully win a custody case … well, half the battle’s over baby!
Fletcher Reede (Jim Carrey) is of course the aforementioned attorney. When he misses his son Max’s sixth birthday, Max has had enough, and wishes that for just one day his dad couldn’t tell a lie. Cue a mysterious breeze blowing in the window, and Fletcher is about to find himself bombarded with sticky situations he can’t talk himself out of, all the while trying to make up for missing his son’s birthday, and ultimately stop his son from moving to another town with his mother and her magoo boyfriend Jerry (Cary Elwes).
Granted, a lot of what makes Liar Liar so enjoyable is Jim Carrey. Yet he had to have material to work with, and the promise of the premise is indulged in myriad ways, each one basically outdoing the last. The best of which are Fletcher berating himself—my favorite is undoubtedly this.
Yet comedy alone doesn’t warrant a Classic Screenplay review. What sets Liar Liar apart—and what I enjoy most—isn’t the comedy as much as its solid little theme, its perfectly—dare I say—pedestrian arc for Fletcher: a bad father realises his mistakes and wins his son back. As Gravity is proving, movies don’t have to have a profound message; simplicity is the ultimate sophistication—to quote Someone Famous. Some argue Liar Liar’s sentiment is a little too syrupy, but dammit it’s a gritty world we live in, one that could use all the sentiment it can get.
Liar Liar has heart. Liar Liar had a corker of a central concept, fleshed out to perfection, and executed awesomely by the team of Jim Carey and Tom Shadyac. That’s something classic in my book.
And, for the record, I had planned to review Requiem for a Dream, but ReelGood beat me to the punch.