Eighth-grader Jason Shepherd is a liar, his pants are on fire. He tells fibs about everything, from whether he ate his breakfast to why he didn’t do his homework. Everyone knows he’s a master fabricator. His parents, his teachers, even his friends roll their eyes practically every time he opens his mouth. So when Marty, a Hollywood producer in town on a film shoot, steals his homework and makes a movie out of it, no one believes Jason is telling the truth.
To prove his story, Jason sneaks off to Los Angeles with his friend Kaylee and hounds Marty to fess up. The pranks pile up. The special effects begin to clutter up the place. Part Malcolm in the Middle, part Max Keeble, part Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Big Fat Liar is guaranteed to drive the pre-teen crowd crazy. Of course it doesn’t hurt that Malcolm’s Frankie Muniz is working his kid vibe to full effect.
positive elements: Given that the title of the movie is Big Fat Liar, it’s not hard to believe that the moral of the story is to tell the truth. The boy who cried wolf learned the same lesson centuries ago. "Keep working on those lies, because, take it from me, the truth is overrated," blares Marty. He’s wrong, Jason discovers. The truth is vastly underrated. Also, while not a lot of time is spent on it, Jason is deeply affected by his father’s disapproval. His quest to clear his name is driven by a desire to win back his dad’s trust. The biblical idea that one reaps what he sows is driven home by Marty’s eventual comeuppance. All of the people he trampled on so callously while climbing the studio ladder band together to take him down a few rungs.
nudity and sexual content: None. At worst, one of Kaylee’s outfits leaves her midriff bare.
violent content: A bully knocks Jason off his skateboard, then steals it. A couple of scenes later, Jason rides a bicycle into the side of a limo and takes a header onto the pavement. Once in Hollywood, Jason wreaks havoc on Marty’s well-ordered life, dying the producer’s pool (and subsequently his skin) blue, super gluing his phone to his ear, etc. Sent to the wrong address for a meeting, Marty is mistaken for a clown at a birthday party, whereupon the rowdy children attack him (the scene is repeated again at the end of the film with another group of children, one of whom—at the urging of his father—kicks Marty in the crotch). A monster truck squashes Marty’s convertible. Marty takes a dive out of a speeding car. And he’s engulfed in a flash flood generated as a special effect for a movie. Jason crashes a golf cart on the studio lot.
crude or profane language: Two or three exclamatory uses of "hell." One "crap." And six misuses of God’s name. Additionally, shabby slang expressions such as "you suck," "Ricky retardo," "geek boy," "bite me," "spaz," "four eyes" and "moron" are used against various individuals.
drug and alcohol content: A Tinseltown shindig includes alcohol. Marty offers Jason a cigar (Jason turns him down, reminding him he is only 14). Marty then smokes the cigar himself before using it to torch Jason’s school paper. Once it’s burning fiercely in a trash can, Marty pours liquor on the paper, generating a near-explosion.
other negative elements: Never mind the colossal number of laws he breaks to bring Marty to his knees, Jason’s parents never even say boo about the fact that he buys himself a ticket to Los Angeles and flies there on his own without telling a soul where he is. Dad is too busy being proud of his son for writing a hit screenplay! Additionally, Jason and Kaylee promise to do a classmate’s homework for him if he dresses up like a girl and makes Kaylee’s senile grandmother believe he is she.
conclusion: Aesop would have loved Big Fat Liar. It’s right down his alley. A simple moral packaged in a quick story. The bad news for BFL (other than the fact that half the film reads like a TV commercial for Universal Studios) is that while Jason teaches moviegoers a great lesson, you’re not quite convinced he ever really learns it himself. While trying to prove his trustworthiness, he sneaks away from home, scams nearly everyone he meets and commits a multitude of crimes (from larceny, to assault, to breaking and entering). None of that matters in the end, though, as his dad embraces him, forgives all and tells him that he’s earned his trust. Huh?! If I had pulled a stunt like that when I was a kid, I’d still be grounded.