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BIG FAT LIAR

With this kid-versus-adult comedy, Malcolm in the Middle star Frankie Muniz gets a big-screen transfer. He plays Jason Shepherd, a 14-year-old compulsive fibber. The lies are largely innocuous, having to do with chores and homework. But one day, after getting busted for spinning a tale about an incomplete assignment because his dad choked on a meatball, Jason must pony up a short-order essay or pull a stint in summer school. The paper, a hyperbolic fable about a perpetual liar, winds up in the hands of an avaricious movie producer known as the Wolf (Paul Giamatti). The tale evolves into a hot Hollywood project plastered all over the news, and when Jason claims to be its originator, no one believes him.

What ensues is a Home Alone–esque turf war over intellectual property, with Jason unleashing prankish hell on the Wolf. When the film, directed by TV-actor-turned-director Shawn Levy, is in high-jinks mode, Muniz shines, but when it lurches into melodrama, he appears awkward and out of his element. Fortunately, the wonderfully effervescent Amanda Bynes (of Nickelodeon TV) as Jason’s sidekick and the uproarious Giamatti are lurking at each turn to froth up this teen romp.

BY TOM MEEK

Issue Date: February 7 - 14, 2002
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