Film Recommendation: “Big Fat Liar”
Hollywood satire is typically reserved for more adult fare. Filmmakers must believe that the inner, more sordid machinations of the Hollywood system are of little interest to the younger generation. While I can’t blame them for thinking this, I feel they may be selling kids short. They’re a pretty understanding and perceptive bunch, and posses a keener more purer insight into matters of human nature than adults. You’d be surprised at what kids can handle
Its all about balance. How do you find movies for kids that will keep them entertained while stimulating their minds? Rest assured, quality films for kids are out there if you look hard enough. There are wonderful adventure movies (like The Thief of Baghdad, 1941) enriching fantasy films (like The Phantom Tollbooth, 1970) and even joyous musicals kids can get into (like Singing In the Rain. Hey, great movies are never cliche). Believe it or not, there is even a great Hollywood satire made especially for kids that is just as insightful and astute as those made for adults. Don’t believe me? Well, you’ve obviously never seen Big Fat Liar.
Dir. Shawn Levy
Produced by Brian Tollins and Dan Schneider
Written by Dan Schneider
When junior high-school student Jason Shepherd (Frankie Muniz) realizes that his class paper has been ripped off and turned into a hit motion picture called “Big Fat Liar,” he takes matters into his own hands. Along with his best friend, Kaylee (Amanda Bynes), Jason travels to Los Angeles, where he intends to confront Hollywood big shot Marty Wolf (Paul Giamantti), the sleazy producer responsible for ripping him off. When he’s unable to get Wolf to do the right thing, Jason subjects the showbiz power broker to a series of humiliating pranks and stunts designed to make an honest man out of him. Big Fat Liar co-stars Lee Majors and Amanda Demeter.
synopsis courtesy of allmovie.com
Today, Shawn Levy is known primary as the director of the two Night at the Museum movies; scatterbrained crapshoots of overblown fantasy and comedy. Long ago however he was at the helm of many shows in great 90’s renaissance of children’s entertainment including: The Secret World of Alex Mack, So Weird, and The Famous Jett Jackson. Likewise, Dan Schneider, known now for awful shows like iCarly, Victorious, and Zoey 101, was, in the 90’s, the Norman Lear of kids comedy. He created and wrote for shows like All That, Kenan and Kel, and The Amanda Show.
By 2001, Shawn Levy and Dan Schneider had three films between them (one television movie directed by Levy, two features co-written by Schneider). From there to the production and release of Big Fat Liar it’s easy to surmise the steps taken towards the creation of the film.
The Making of Big Fat Liar
A play in one act by Film-Cycle
Ext. A high class restaruant in Hollywood.
Shawn: “Hey Dan, What if your next project was a harsh, biting satire of Hollywood politics.”
Dan: “You’re crazy.”
Shawn: “We can pull if off. Our satire will be unique. Its revolves around a kid; a kid who is a natural storyteller and a gifted liar. Through a series of random events his school paper is stolen by a Hollywood producer. This guy is awful; a slimy, narcissistic, evil, piece of garbage, but not too dark so kids get scared.
Dan: “Who you got in mind to play this guy?”
Shawn: “Who in Hollywood could make John Gacy a likable character?”
Dan: “Paul Giamatti.”
Shawn: What about the kid?”
Dan: “He’d have to be likable with a unique goofy look; a Frankie Muniz type. We’ll also give him a best friend.
Shawn: “So this jerk producer steals this kids story. He does it to save his career. He’s had a string of flops and sees the story as his salvation. The kid gets in trouble because the producer took his school paper, but no one will believes him, so he decides to sneak off, with his friend, to Hollywood and confront the producer in person and clear his name.”
Shawn: “Now we need a name for this producer guy that encapsulates, how idiotic and untrustworthy most producers can be. How about Marty. Marty Wolf of Marty Wolf Pictures
Dan: Okay, so the kids confront Marty Wolf and he denies the whole thing, so the kids decide to get even with him.
Shawn: Our main hero boy (we’ll call him Jason) and his friend decide to give Marty the Home Alone treatment. They cause trouble for his company and all his projects. They mess up every aspect of Marty’s life including his personal hygiene.
Shawn: “We should also show how badly Wolf treats the people working under him, showcasing the nastier tendencies a Hollywood producer’s typically displays. Suffice to say, this Marty guy would have a lot of enemies.”
Dan: “We’ll have Jason encounter dozens of people who’ve been wronged by Wolf: chauffeurs, writers, stuntmen and stunt-women, assistants, directors, actors and actresses (great opportunity for cameo’s here). They join with Jason and together they work to bring Wolf down.”
Shawn “So its a satire of the Hollywood system wrapped up in a kiddie comedy/slash morality tale.”
Dan: Will our bosses go for it.”
Shawn: “Of course. They’re so narcissistic they’ll probably get off on it..”
Dan: “I got the perfect guy to direct it.”
Shawn: “Who? Me!”
Dan: “Brian Robbins.”
Shawn: “I hate you.”
Thus was the story of how “Big Fat Liar” came to be (or at least a reasonable facsimile of it). Like most kiddie fare, it made a reasonable sum of money at the box office and the reviews were mixed. It soon disappeared from public view only to be found later in the 5 dollar dvd bin at Walmart. An unfit end for a film that contains intelligence and satire well beyond its recommended age for viewing.