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HTF REVIEW: "Big Fat Liar" (with screenshots)


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#1 of 31 Ronald Epstein

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Posted August 26 2002 - 10:47 AM

Posted Image

Big Fat Liar






Studio: Universal
Year: 2002
Rated: PG
Film Length: 88 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Standard Full Frame (1.33:1)



What a shame. This review could have been such
an encouragement for those of you looking for a
fairly decent family comedy. In fact, I was so
totally geared up to watch this film last night
because it starred Paul Giamatti. Paul is one
of the most recognizable character actors in
Hollywood today, known mostly for his roles as
Pig Vomit in Howard Stern's Private Parts
(W-ennnnnn-BC) and as Sergeant William Hill in
Saving Private Ryan.

So, where was I? Oh, yes -- so I was totally
geared to watch this film featuring one of my
favorite character actors. I get my little bowl
of popcorn and my glass of cold soda and I insert
the DVD into the player only to find....wait....
what is this?.....FULL FRAME?! That's right,
Universal has socked it to us by releasing Big
Fat Liar
in a full-frame only version. Suffice
to say, the rest of the viewing experience was
ruined. It's a shame. The movie had such potential.

Posted Image

You can't help but like Jason Shepherd (Frankie Muniz).
He's neither a dweeb nor a jock. He's a little guy
of 14, who is constantly mistaken for a 12-year-old.
His problem? He's a big FAT liar. His imagination
knows no bounds. He can fib his way out of every
situation. When he requires an accomplice, his
girlfriend, Kaylee (Amanda Bynes), is willing and
able to help. Lying comes so naturally to him that
soon everyone around him stops believing him totally.

Posted Image

Jason's life suddenly changes when he is caught in
a particularly complicated lie, and, in order to
avoid summer school, he has to write a 1000-word
essay in four hours. He writes this incredible
little ditty called Big Fat Liar. On his
way to turning it in he is hit by a limousine
transporting movie producer Marty Wolf (Paul Giamatti),
who unwillingly agrees to give Marty a lift to
school. On his way out of the car, Jason leaves
behind his story. Marty reads it and turns it
into a blockbuster film.

Posted Image

Jason tells his parents that he really was the
author of this new film and when they don’t believe
him, he and Kaylee set out for Hollywood to
induce The Wolf to admit to Jason’s authorship. Once
they find Wolf, however, they discover that he's not
only unwilling to corroborate Jason's tale but that
he's claiming authorship of Jason's story. When he
tries to have them thrown off the studio lot, the
pair of kids devise an elaborate plan of revenge.

Posted Image

Despite the simplicity of the storyline and the
fact that this was obviously an easy picture for
Universal to make (most of the film takes place on
the Universal Studio lot), the movie is an absolute
delight thanks to its three stars. Frankie Muniz and
Amanda Bynes are remarkable young talents who bring
tremendous energy and comedy to this film. Of
course, Paul Giamatti is as cartoonish as ever,
and should be nominated for best use of the song
Hungry Like The Wolf.


How is the transfer?


This is totally where Universal screwed up with
this film. Here they have a transfer that is
among the best I have seen to date, and they confine
it all inside a 1.33:1 ratio.

This transfer is absolutely gorgeous! You really
have to see it to believe how crisp and detailed
this transfer is. Most of all, you have to experience
all the kaleidoscope of brilliant and vivid colors
that stand out in scene after scene. There is no
video grain or noise to be seen resulting in
tremendous clarity. Watching this film in widescreen
would have been an amazing experience. Instead, I
see one of Universal's all-time best transfers ruined
by a full-frame presentation.

This DVD even features a DTS mix, which for once
I would have been in favor of omitting if it left
bandwidth for an additional widescreen version on
the same DVD. The DTS mix adds nothing to this
film as most of the bass-heavy soundtrack rests
squarely in the front channels. The rears are only
occasionally used for a few effect noises on the
Universal lot, but otherwise, not the sort of mix
that Dolby Digital couldn't have handled just as
well. The diversified soundtrack filled with
teenybopper/dance music had my subwoofer kicking
alongside the beats.


Special Features

Posted ImagePosted Image


You can tell that this movie was specifically
geared towards the family crowd. When you pop in
the DVD you are greeted by actress Amanda Bynes
who dodges the falling text lettering that becomes
part of the Main Menu. She becomes your personal
guide to selecting the proper options.

The DVD features two commentaries. The
first is with Director Shawn Levy. The second is
with Frankie Muniz. I listened to portions of
Muniz's commentary. Muniz talks very sparingly
throughout, but shows a lot of energy and enthusiasm
in scene after scene as he talks about his
impressions of his co-stars, and the many takes
it took to get that particular scene just right.
Throughout the film he also talks about the many
locations they filmed in, as well as giving us
inside facts about those locales. Frankie talks
about the initial first draft of the script, his
initial thoughts upon reading it, and how the story
changed through its many revisions.

Posted Image

The Making of Big Fat Liar is your typical
promotional featurette that features Director Shawn
Levy as well as Frankie Muniz, Donald Faison, Paul
Giamatti and Amanada Bynes talking about the story
and their characters. The young stars are just
thrilled about working with Paul Giamatti, who
they felt was perfect for the part. Amanda recalls
what a blast she had hanging out in the wardrobe
department at Universal Studios. There are a lot
of behind-the-camera shots on the Universal lot,
as the cast talks about their experiences working
with each other.
(length: approx. 11 minutes)

There are 14 minutes of Deleted Scenes that
really aren't very funny nor do they add anything
to the film's content other than to slow the pace.
These scenes include:

* An extension of the scene that begins with
Urkel and the chicken and extends to Marty Wolf
sucking up to the new studio President.

* A private casting session in Marty's trailer
with a beautiful blonde.

* An extension of the film's party sequence
featuring Marty making his big entrance.

* A ruffled Marty trying to gain walk-on
access to the studio lot.


The Big Fat Liar Trivia Challenge allows
you to answer multiple choice questions regarding
Universal movies. The questions are quite simple,
all concerning movies out on DVD, and if you get
a question wrong you have the opportunity to try
again. What's really cool is that if you need a
hint, you actually have the answer played for you
in a related film clip.

Being a person who loves studio back lots, I was
hoping for something a little more exciting out
of the interactive Universal Studios Back lot
Adventure
. Instead of getting a small tour
of the back lot, you get a map of the lot. Click
on areas of the map to see a clip from the movie
where that portion of the lot is featured.

Are you a Big Fat Liar?. This fun little
test presents you with 10 questions that will
ultimately reveal your honesty.

There is a section dedicated to the Playstation 2
game, Spyro: Enter the Dragon. First is a
trailer that promotes the game, followed by a
cheat code.

The extras conclude with the film's original
theatrical trailer
, as well as Production
Notes
that tell how Producers Mile Tolin and
Brian Robbins sought out Nickelodeon TV Director
Shawn Levy. There is a rather informative
cast and filmmaker filmography that does more
than just list film and TV credits. There is also
included DVD-ROM content.


Final Thoughts


I have a rather tough choice here of recommending
this title or telling people not to buy it. On the
one hand, Big Fat Liar is a really cool
family comedy that I think some adults will have just
as much fun watching as their kids will. The
talented comedic cast is what makes this film
worth watching. There's also supplemental content
that will keep pre-teens and teens fighting for
the remote.

On the other hand, Universal taken this gorgeous
transfer (and it is remarkable) and modified it for
a full-frame presentation. Why couldn't Universal
offer a separate widescreen version? That decision
alone gives me great cause to recommend that you
don't buy this film, thus sending a strong message
to Universal that this sort of release will not be
tolerated.

And to make matters worse, a trailer for Amanda
Byne's new Fall TV show is forced on you before the
start of the film, and pending on your DVD player,
there may be no way to escape it.

Totally bad decisions all around for a film that
I would have otherwise recommended.



Release Date: September 24, 2002

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#2 of 31 Thik Nongyow

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Posted August 26 2002 - 11:42 AM

I noticed that this film was in a recent Golden Raspberry Foundation poll for Worst Picture with "Slackers" "The Queen of the Damned" "Crossroads" and "Rollerball." Will "Big Fat Liar" win the dishonor next year?

#3 of 31 Keith Paynter

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Posted August 26 2002 - 12:16 PM

Nice review Ron, a bit backhanded, obviously, but there it is.

I thought, however, you had made a point not to review full-frame titles unless that was the original format.Posted Image
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#4 of 31 NickFoley

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Posted August 26 2002 - 12:58 PM

Full screen only?

What a horrible decision by Universal.

#5 of 31 Jesse Skeen

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Posted August 26 2002 - 01:11 PM

Didn't someone say they got a screener that was anamorphic widescreen?
There's no excuse for doing this with a brand-new movie. Colleen and everyone else at Universal, PLEASE start making laserdiscs again if you're not going to do DVDs correctly anymore.
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#6 of 31 MattHR

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Posted August 26 2002 - 02:22 PM

Quote:
Didn't someone say they got a screener that was anamorphic widescreen?


My dvd screening copy is OAR. I can live with the occasional "For screening purposes only" text pop-ups.

Like "Snow Dogs", I don't know why they bother releasing these sort of films with DTS and commentaries. I would bet that 99.99% of DTS and commentary enthusiasts demand OAR,
while 99.99% of the Pan & Scan crowd couldn't even tell you what DTS stands for or how to access the commentaries.

#7 of 31 Chris M

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Posted August 26 2002 - 02:33 PM

Well, universal has gone back to the beginning.. what a sad state of events this is.

Guess we'll never get movies like The Shadow or Babe in OAR now.

Chris.

#8 of 31 Michael Allred

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Posted August 26 2002 - 02:53 PM

I won't even bother renting this.

Shame on you Universal.

#9 of 31 Brenton

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Posted August 26 2002 - 03:07 PM

I am very disappointed. I was looking forward to this film. Frankie Muniz is a crack-up, and Amanda Bynes is a hottie.

*makes a disappointed face*

#10 of 31 Colin Jacobson

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Posted August 26 2002 - 03:38 PM

Quote:
My dvd screening copy is OAR. I can live with the occasional "For screening purposes only" text pop-ups.



Is that supposed to be a review copy or is it for retailers? My review copy is like Ron's: MAR...
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#11 of 31 Joshua Clinard

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Posted August 26 2002 - 04:41 PM

The screening copy he speaks of is referring to the copy they send out to the academy.

#12 of 31 Jodee

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Posted August 27 2002 - 01:50 AM

Is this disc open matte? The screen shots above look like there is a lot of extra information at the top & bottom.

Based on the reviews I heard, I probably would have bought this if it were widescreen. I am just going to rent it now. No sense granting Universal an additional sale when they can't even frame it correctly. (And I'll rent it from Netflix eventually so it won't be like I'll be supporting the video stores buying umpteen new release copies.)

#13 of 31 Christian Preischl

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Posted August 27 2002 - 03:07 AM

Woah, wait a minute,

Am I seeing things or are the menus anamorphic widescreen?

They've got to be kidding!

Chris

#14 of 31 Dave Scarpa

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Posted August 27 2002 - 06:14 AM

Actually Ron, given the mission statement of the Forum I'm surprised you put as much effort into this as you did.
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#15 of 31 LukeB

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Posted August 27 2002 - 07:04 AM

Actually I'm glad Ron reviewed it. "No review" speaks less than a negative review that condemns the practice of releasing "Family Films" in modified aspect ratios.

Furthermore, with Universal pulling a Disney and being cryptic about aspect ratio info on this one, this thread provided confirmation that it is not OAR, which is more info than I usually take from DVD reviews.

Good review, disheartening practice!

#16 of 31 Robert Floto

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Posted August 27 2002 - 10:35 AM

Ron,

Due to our mission statement, wouldn't it be better to not review discs that are MAR? I think that would send a better message to the studios...


As it is, I only read this review up to the point where you said Full Frame...after that I was completely uninterested in anything else that could be said about this release...
Movies I would purchase instantly if they were available in their correct aspect ratio:
Death Trap, Innocent Blood, The Shadow, and Remo Williams

#17 of 31 Ronald Epstein

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Posted August 27 2002 - 11:00 AM

I think that it has already been stated in
this thread that it's better to send a negative
message to both the public and studio rather than
not to say anything at all.

I am also obligated to review a certain amount
of screener product from each studio. I have
fulfilled my obligation. Posted Image

Ronald J Epstein
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#18 of 31 James Bergeron

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Posted August 27 2002 - 11:12 AM

Geez, thanks Ron! I was going to buy this, of course I would have read the packaging first. No buy from me, I MAY rent it but probably not. I really can't see what is so hard about both versions on the same disc!

Hey Universal, ummmm people with Widescreen sets have families TOO!!!!
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#19 of 31 todd s

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Posted August 27 2002 - 03:07 PM

I think that any movie that is P&S should be reviewed. But, you should cut the review in half. Posted Image
Bring back John Doe! Or at least resolve the cliff-hanger with a 2hr movie or as an extra on a dvd release.

#20 of 31 AaronMK

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Posted August 27 2002 - 03:24 PM

Universal, as far as I am concerned, you have not released Twins or Babe either.

Quote:
Furthermore, with Universal pulling a Disney and being cryptic about aspect ratio info on this one, this thread provided confirmation that it is not OAR, which is more info than I usually take from DVD reviews.

Speaking of Disney, the fact that no AR was metioned in the Lilo & Stitch press release makes me wonder if that will be a DVD without the movie as well. Posted Image