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  • Widescreen 1.78:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Hungarian: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English: DTS 5.1 Surround
  • Czech: Dolby Digital Surround
    English, Czech, Greek, Hungarian, Arabic, Turkish, Romanian
  • 6 Deleted scenes
  • Theatrical trailer
  • 2 Audio commentary
  • Featurette
  • DTS trailer

Big Fat Liar (Rental)

Universal/Universal . R4 . COLOR . 84 mins . PG . PAL


Ah, the pre-pubescent child – is there any more undiscerning a movie goer? Frankly, no – as the plethora of films aimed at our 7-12 year olds, with their rigid and predictable formulae, attests. On the cusp of changing their self image from child to adult, these precocious little tykes like nothing more than to see imitations of themselves getting one over on some slow, dim-witted adults - and all without any of that mushy kissing stuff either.

And thus the die is cast. Through films uncounted, Hollywood has taken one or two smart-arse kids, added a comic-book villain in the form of an evil scheming adult, and let the kids, through many and varied pranks and hijinx, triumph over adult-dom. Sometimes the results are fantastic (Spy Kids) and sometimes abysmal (Home Alone 1 through 1000), but always the same old crap is lapped up with gusto by its target audience. With little else available for pint-sized actors, it was inevitable that when Frankie Muniz, star of one of TV’s wryest sitcoms Malcolm in the Middle, went looking for his big-screen debut, he would eventually wind up fronting more of the same.

When Jason Shepard (Muniz) - a shite-talking motor mouth who is seemingly incapable of telling the truth - forgets to complete his English homework, he initially avoids castigation with an elaborate yet hasty deception. Inevitably the truth is soon discovered and, given a few hours leeway to finish the assignment, he drafts a semi-biographical story entitled Big Fat Liar. Rushing across town to deliver the completed work to his English teacher, Jason is knocked off his sister’s bike by the limo of Hollywood producer Marty Wolf (Paul Giamatti). Reluctantly, Wolf agrees to ferry the lad to his destination but, as fate would have it, Jason’s story is left on the floor of the limo. With no assignment to hand in, Jason faces summer school and, no matter how much he cries Wolf (get it?), no one will believe his sob-story. Even his parents don’t seem to trust him any more.

But that’s not all. Soon trailers start appearing at his local multiplex for an upcoming summer blockbuster, Marty Wolf Pictures’ Big Fat Liar! The utter, utter bastard! Incensed at the injustice of it all, Jason, accompanied by his best friend Kaylee (Amanda Bynes), decides to head to LA, retrieve his story, and win back the respect of his parents...

"Put the pedal to the metal Rickie Retardo!!"

Coming into Big Fat Liar a fan of Malcolm in the Middle, I was initially a little disappointed by this largely formulaic offering. Muniz’s Jason, a confident class clown, lacks the self-loathing that is such a key ingredient to his character in Malcolm, and his resulting performance is a little less caustic than we have become accustomed to. Nevertheless, Muniz still manages a good showing; easily the match of Maculkin in his prime, and apart from those cool Spy Kids, one of the brightest pint-sized stars currently doing the rounds.

Surprisingly however, the film’s real standouts are Frankie’s companion in crime Amanda Bynes, and arch nemesis Paul Giamatti. Apparently, the entertaining Ms Bynes has her own cable TV show in the US, and from her self-assured capering here, stealing as she does every single scene from poor little Frankie, I can understand why. But it is Paul Giamatti and his scheming, vitriolic Hollywood producer that provides the majority of the film’s laughs - for laughs there are. His seriously over-the-top, wonderfully physical performance, blue skin and all, provides some of the film’s funniest moments; moments that should entertain adults and children alike.

Overall, even cynical old me found more than a couple of good laughs to be found in Big Fat Liar. Formulaic it might be, but you could do far worse than a rental of what is some quite reasonable, and often funny, family fare.


In terms of video, Universal’s anamorphic (1.78:1) transfer of Big Fat Liar is everything we’ve come to expect from the big name distributors these days and, apart from the usual superlatives, there’s little more to say. Taken from a crystal clean print, the resulting image is sharp and displays a wealth of detail, both in well-lit and low light conditions. Additionally, neither the telecine nor compression process have left their mark on the image, with no significant aliasing or digital artefacts detectable throughout. In terms of colour, although the film’s palette is originally quite muted (a conscious directorial decision) and displays a slight amount of film grain, once our intrepid pair reach Hollywood the palette erupts with a blaze of vibrant, eye-watering hues - not a big ask when the antagonist is painted bright blue for the majority of the feature! Really, the only negative I can cite is a rather clunky layer change around the one-hour mark and, all in all, this is a great job from Universal. Certainly with the majority of the film an unashamed plug for Universal Studios, there’s shiny-happy-detail aplenty from start to finish.


It never ceases to amaze me the kinds of films that receive the DTS treatment in our region. It’s certainly not the films you might expect - that latest effects-laden extravaganza doesn’t need a DTS soundtrack to crack open your wallet. No it’s the smaller films, those that escaped your attention, to which the DTS treatment helps add a certain credibility; a certain weight. And so we come to Big Fat Liar, not a bad film by any means, but one whose DTS mix, provided in addition to a serviceable Dolby Digital 5.1 track, reeks of marketing-fuelled overkill.

Enough of the ranting. Suffice to say that, whilst the DTS mix is a welcome addition to Big Fat Liar, with the exception of an increase in fidelity, the differences between it and its Dolby Digital 5.1 mix are minimal. A relatively low-budget kids film, Big Fat Liar just doesn’t have the aural density to take full advantage of DTS.

That’s not to say the soundtrack doesn’t have its moments. In general, the audio mixes are largely front-dominant with the odd smattering of ambient sound, such as the chaos of busy school corridors, the hubbub of a bustling movie set, or the birds singing in tree-lined suburban avenues, emanating from the rear channels. Channel separation is good, especially across the front, and rear channel separation is evident with a smattering of directional effects such as off-camera dialogue and a small number of foley elements such as the school bell. Particularly impressive is a moment involving a helicopter, in which the room is filled with the swirl of furious blades.

When the action hots up, so does the soundtrack, with some thumping pop tunes such as Fat Boy Slim’s Right Here Right Now, Come On Come On by Smash Mouth and some Matrix-inspired techno beats, balanced nicely between the front and rear channels. As good as these tunes are, the musical highlight comes not from these contemporary tracks, but in the form of some '80s classics - Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger and Duran Duran’s Hungry Like the Wolf! All the while the subwoofer is kept busy adding doof to these tunes and the odd foley effect such as the booming gates of Jason’s summer school and the wump of helicopter blades. So too, the all-important dialogue is handled well; clear and distinct throughout and without any nasty synch issues.


Some rather rudimentary static menus provide access to a collection of extras that, whilst reasonably numerous, provide little real entertainment.

  • Commentary - director Shawn Levy, and cinematographer Jonathon Brown: These guys talk continuously and enthusiastically about their first studio film. Although they’re a little dry to listen to, there’s quite a bit of technical information to soak up here. The pair explain what is, in all probability, every single decision they had to make concerning framing, plot, scripting and performance, as well as relating a bunch of on-set anecdotes. Nowhere near the best directorial commentary I’ve listened to, but by no means the worst either.

  • Commentary – Frankie Muniz: Ah Frankie. Love your work kiddo, but stick to the acting OK? A pretty clueless commentary from the youngster, who could well have done with a few companions to bounce observations and anecdotes off. Younger fans may well be interested in hearing Frankie’s impressions of working on a feature film, but overall, they left me bored rigid.

  • Spotlight on Location: (11:50) Spoilers ahoy! A fast-cut, behind-the-scenes featurette that, through interviews with director, producers and the cast, provides a superficial but interesting look at the plot and the production. If you can’t be bothered watching the film, then you’ll find the entire plot laid out here. There’s a lot of it was great working with blah, he/she’s the bomb, yadda yadda, but there’s also some reasonably interesting anecdotes to enjoy.

  • Deleted Scenes: (14:40) One new scene, and extensions to five others mostly provide a few extra minutes from Mr Giamatti. For the most part the reasons for omission are very obviously pacing, and there’s little of an entertaining nature here.

  • Universal Backlot: Links to six different scenes in the film show the shameless use of the Universal backlot throughout the film, including the house from Psycho, the ‘New York Street’ and ‘Spartacus Square’.

  • Theatrical Trailer: Yawn.

  • DTS Trailer: The cool piano one.


Although it’s a little unfair a comparison, I must be honest and say that Big Fat Liar is no Malcolm in the Middle. It’s a kids film, nothing more and nothing less. Still, with reasonable performances from all involved, it does represent some enjoyable, harmless family fare. And with enough laughs for both adults and children alike, it certainly justifies the rental price. Those with kids should check it out.

  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=2199
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      And I quote...
    "A feature length Malcolm in the Middle it ain’t, but it's a reasonably enjoyable family film nonetheless..."
    - Gavin Turner
      Review Equipment
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          Toshiba SD-2108
    • TV:
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    • Receiver:
          Yamaha RX-V795
    • Amplifier:
          Yamaha RX-V795
    • Speakers:
          B&W 602
    • Centre Speaker:
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    • Surrounds:
          JM Lab Cobalt SR20
    • Subwoofer:
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    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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