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

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Aug 26, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    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.
    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.
    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.
    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.
    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
    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.
    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
    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
  2. Thik Nongyow

    Thik Nongyow Stunt Coordinator

    Jun 3, 2002
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    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. Keith Paynter

    Keith Paynter Screenwriter

    Mar 16, 1999
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    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.[​IMG]
  4. NickFoley

    NickFoley Stunt Coordinator

    May 5, 2002
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    Full screen only?

    What a horrible decision by Universal.
  5. Jesse Skeen

    Jesse Skeen Producer

    Apr 24, 1999
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    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.
  6. MattHR

    MattHR Screenwriter

    Mar 9, 2001
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  7. Chris M

    Chris M Second Unit

    Apr 15, 2000
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    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.

  8. Michael Allred

    Michael Allred Screenwriter

    Aug 13, 2000
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    I won't even bother renting this.

    Shame on you Universal.
  9. Brenton

    Brenton Screenwriter

    Jun 25, 2002
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    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. Colin Jacobson

    Colin Jacobson Lead Actor

    Apr 19, 2000
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  11. Joshua Clinard

    Joshua Clinard Screenwriter

    Aug 25, 2000
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    Abilene, TX
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    Joshua Clinard
    The screening copy he speaks of is referring to the copy they send out to the academy.
  12. Jodee

    Jodee Screenwriter

    Jun 13, 1999
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    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. Christian Preischl

    Christian Preischl Screenwriter

    Oct 11, 2001
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    Christian Preischl
    Woah, wait a minute,

    Am I seeing things or are the menus anamorphic widescreen?

    They've got to be kidding!

  14. Dave Scarpa

    Dave Scarpa Producer

    Apr 8, 1999
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    David Scarpa
    Actually Ron, given the mission statement of the Forum I'm surprised you put as much effort into this as you did.
  15. LukeB

    LukeB Cinematographer

    Apr 26, 2000
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    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. Robert Floto

    Robert Floto Supporting Actor

    Jul 27, 1999
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    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...
  17. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Ronald Epstein
    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. [​IMG]
  18. James Bergeron

    James Bergeron Supporting Actor

    Oct 9, 2001
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    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!!!!
  19. todd s

    todd s Lead Actor

    Jul 8, 1999
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    I think that any movie that is P&S should be reviewed. But, you should cut the review in half. [​IMG]
  20. AaronMK

    AaronMK Supporting Actor

    Oct 30, 1999
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    Orlando, FL
    Real Name:
    Aaron Karp
    Universal, as far as I am concerned, you have not released Twins or Babe either.

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