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"Man on the Moon"

Directed by Milos Forman.
Written by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski. 
Starring Jim Carrey and Courtney Love.
Release Year:  1999 
Review Date:  12/25/99 


Merry Christmas!  Santa was good to me once again this year, simply by providing me the opportunity to be alive this Christmas, so the fact that I didn't get that Jaguar for the 24th consecutive Christmas didn't bother me one bit.  Hopefully, all of you can share a similar sentiment.

The most lovely woman I know--my mom, the doctor Barbara Brunt--accompanied me to our Christmas movie date at the Rio Theaters in Gaithersburg.  Today's choice:  the Andy Kaufman biopic "Man on the Moon."  Now, I know that some of you don't know who he is, and that isn't required to get a good laugh out of the movie.  Jim Carrey tackles the role here, and man, is he good.  If you ever watched the TV show "Taxi," you will appreciate seeing many of the show's original cast members in the movie, and Carrey has Kaufman down to a t.  After getting hosed by not getting an Oscar nomination for his performance in "The Truman Show," it is doubtful that Carrey will be overlooked again.  The movie follows Kaufman's life from his early stand-up days to his performance on "Taxi" to his much-publicized wrestling stunts with pro wrestler Jerry Lawler (representing himself in the movie) to his eventual passing at the hands of disease.  In terms of plot, this is your run-of-the-mill rise and fall story arc.

The pace of the movie is very good, and besides Carrey's performance, its best trait.  The story doesn't lapse into really explaining what makes Kaufman tick, quite simply because the writers probably didn't know--Kaufman's a few sandwiches short of a picnic, if you catch my drift.  But, the flow of the movie means that there aren't too many times when you're thinking to yourself, "OK, this blows, I'm getting the hell outta here!"

But, the problems of the movie are a bit plentiful.  By not really explaining what makes Kaufman tick, I never really felt like I knew Kaufman any better, just confused at what would make a man decide it would be funny to wrestle women and dominate them in arenas around the country, for example.  Courtney Love is in this movie, and let me briefly explain her role:

First Courtney Love (as Lynne) scene:  challenges Kaufman to a bout in the ring on "The Merv Griffin Show."  Loses.  Curses him for trying to make women look bad on television.

Second scene:  Kaufman sees Lynne on the street somewhere.  Kaufman asks Lynne to marry him.  Lynne, after four or five seconds, says yes.

From there, they act like they've been lovers forever!  Maybe it happened this way in real life, but it seemed just too convenient for me.  Danny Devito plays Kaufman's agent, and he isn't as good as he is capable of...but that, again, may speak to the script more than Devito's lackluster performance.  The other problem?  Many of Kaufman's antics are simply not funny, but I'll be damned if the studio audiences in the movie aren't laughing their collective asses off.  Did I miss something?  I think I have some idea of what mainstream funny is, but after this movie, I'm starting to doubt myself.

Carrey will almost assuredly have his first Oscar nom after this movie, but the movie itself won't be so lucky.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09