Here’s a likable if not particularly memorable little family movie about Jason Shepherd, a 14 year old boy (played by Frankie “Malcolm in the Middle” Muniz) who’s always lying through his teeth. Then one day, he realises that he might have cried wolf too often as he does lose a very important homework paper, in the back of a limo ridden by movie producer Marty Wolf (Paul Giamatti). Making matters even more frustrating for Jason, whom no one will believe anymore, Wolf decides to turn his paper into a big Hollywood movie, taking all the credit for himself!

“Big Fat Liar” has Jason and his best friend (Amanda Bynes) going all the way to Tinseltown to ruin Wolf’s movie, his career and his life! What follows is a madcap farce/satire of Hollywood, kind of like Kevin Smith’s Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back but with a sappy message about the importance of telling the truth instead of relentless profanity. Oh and, obviously, the satire is hardly on the same level. First time director Shawn Levy does come up with funny digs at stuff like bombastic “In a World…” movie trailers, mismatched buddy cops movies (Urkel and a chicken!) and John Woo’s fixation with slo-mo white doves, but for the most part the movie’s humor is harmless slapstick, with the producer getting hit and roughed up a lot.

Half of the movie is set in the Universal Studios Back Lot, so we get lotsa silly chases through various sets as well as the ever reliable filler that are musical montages, such as the classic let’s-put-on-silly-costumes-and-make-faces-at-the-camera montage. Making these less obnoxious is the irresistible Amanda Bynes, whom I could watch being goofy for hours. Frankie Muniz is pretty good himself, even though he should leave the cynical smart-ass thing to grown-ups with better comic timing… Like Paul Giamatti, for instance, who chews twelve kinds of scenery as the “meanest man alive”. “Big Fat Liar” is uneven at best, but it has a certain giddy charm that makes it worth checking out.

DVD Bonus Features include:
– 15 minutes of deleted scenes
– The usual “Spotlight on Location” self-congratulatory featurette
– Cast and Filmmakers bios
– Production Notes
– Theatrical Trailer
– “Are You a Big Fat Liar?” test
– A Trivia Challenge that leads you to a short outtakes reel if you have enough right answers
– Two Feature Commentaries (a surprisingly insightful one with director Levy and his cinematographer and a good-spirited but not very interesting one with Muniz)

and last but oh so not least:
– Amanda Bynes-hosted Menus! Kinda like “Weird Al” did on the UHF DVD, here the delightful Byrnes fools around the menus, encouraging us to pick something or talking on her cell! Me loves Amanda, she’s like totally cuter than both Olsen twins rolled up into one! 😉

In Stores September 24, 2002