[box cover]

Jakob the Liar

For many years Robin Williams has demonstrated a fierce unwillingness to appear in any film which isn't a sentimental tear-jerker, the primary goal of which is to siphon moisture from the eyes of unsuspecting movie-goers. This selective choice of roles has served him well: the abysmal Patch Adams grossed well over $100 million at the box office and was also an explosive success on home video. But unfortunately for Williams, you can't fool all of the people all of the time. Perhaps it was the subject matter of Jakob the Liar which kept movie audiences away in droves: Holocaust comedies are always a risky venture, especially since Jakob appeared hot on the heels of Roberto Benigni's acclaimed Life is Beautiful. Perhaps it was poor timing — the movie was released during the crowded Christmas season, when all the other studios were flooding theaters with weepy family fare as well. Or perhaps it was the simple fact that Jakob the Liar just isn't that great. Well, never fear. If you blinked and missed the film's theatrical run, you can now pop this dreary, sentimental offering into your DVD player and weep into your popcorn right in your own living room. And that's not meant to imply that Jakob the Liar is completely devoid of merit — Williams cannot be faulted for his convincing portrayal of a poor Jewish restaurant owner who spreads phony good news in an effort to bolster the spirits of the war-stricken community in which he lives. But the story's pap sentimentality is so sugar-laden that discerning viewers will probably need to take a break midway through to brush their teeth. Director Peter Kassovitz is to be commended for keeping the often excitable Williams on a tight leash; this is the actor's most restrained performance since, well... possibly ever. How unfortunate, then, that the movie isn't a more interesting vehicle for Williams' considerable acting chops. The DVD features a decent widescreen (1.85:1) transfer, with a pan-and-scan version offered on the flip side. And fans of the film will certainly be pleased with the generous amount of special features, including a theatrical trailer, a making-of featurette, an isolated musical score, production notes, cast and crew biographies, and an audio commentary track by director Peter Kassovitz (which is just as laconic as the film itself). Keep-case.
—Joe Barlow

Back to Quick Reviews Index: [A-F] [G-L] [M-R] [S-Z]

Back to Main Page