Film / Liar Liar
His pants clearly aren't on fire.

Max Reede: My dad? He's... a liar.
Teacher: A liar? I-I'm sure you don't mean a liar...
Max Reede: Well, he wears a suit and goes to court and talks to the judge.
Teacher: Oh, I see! You mean he's a lawyer.
Max Reede: [shrugs]

Liar Liar is a 1997 comedy starring Jim Carrey.

Lawyer Fletcher Reede is both career-focused and (as his profession demands) an expert in lying. His son Max (Justin Cooper) gets frustrated at his father always breaking his promises and not spending time with him, the breaking point coming when his father misses his birthday party (his father says he's working; his boss is actually working him). Disillusioned once again, Max wishes while blowing out his cake candles that Fletcher couldn't tell a lie for just one day.

And the wish works. Fletcher is absolutely incapable of any form of dishonesty no matter how big or small. He can't lie, mislead, ask a question if he knows the answer is going to be a lie, or even deceive by remaining silent. He quickly finds just how much he really does lie in one day and how much trouble he gets into because of telling the absolute truth...

...on the day that not only Fletcher has one of the most important cases of his life, with defenses built mostly on lies, but Audrey (Maura Tierney), Fletcher's ex-wife (and Max's mom) is interested in moving with her boyfriend to Boston, and bringing Max along! Hilarity Ensues.

If you're looking for the trope on extremely good liars, see Consummate Liar, which actually used to be named after this movie.

Tropes used include:

  • Accidental Truth: Fletcher is forced to say the truth even when people don't know it.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Once he's over the shock of spitting out the truth without thinking, Fletcher keeps chuckling over saying "I've had better" after sex with Miranda.
  • Adorkable: Jerry.
  • Amoral Attorney: Fletcher, at first. Miranda's Establishing Character Moment is to make it clear she prefers this from her workers — her second line of dialogue is "let the judge decide what's true or not, that's what he gets paid for; you get paid to win".
  • Artistic License – Cars: When Fletcher is pulled over, he pops open his glove box to reveal unpaid parking tickets. The Mercedes SL series, including Fletcher's SL500, was not equipped with a glove box due to interior space limitations. The dashboard used was from a different model.
  • As You Know: The discussion between Fletcher's boss and the lawyer who won't take the case is there to explain the job of a lawyer to the audience.
  • Awkward Kiss: Fletcher is visibly confused as to what is going on when Miranda begins to make-out with him.
  • Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: In its purest form. Fletcher and Audrey share a kiss just as Max blows out his birthday candles. They believe that Max wished for them to get back together, but it turns out that they were acting on their own free will.
  • Beneath the Mask: Being forced into Brutal Honesty makes Fletcher reveal his low opinion of his own job and co-workers, as well as his distaste for the Amoral part of being an Amoral Attorney.
  • Big "YES!": Fletcher belts one out after preventing the plane to Boston from taking off... followed immediately by a Big "NO!" as he crashes into a pile of traveling bags and cargo.
  • Brutal Honesty: To his clients, to total strangers, and to himself.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Even when acting completely insane, Fletcher is still an exceptional attorney.
  • Cannot Tell a Lie: Or even refuse to answer a question.
  • Cassandra Truth
    Judge Stevens: I'll have to hear good cause, counsel. What's the problem?
    Fletcher: (strains) "...I! CAN'T! LIE!"
    Judge: Commendable, Mr. Reede, but I'm still waiting to hear good cause; do you have one or not?
  • Character Development: Fletcher realizes all his mistakes and becomes more sincere and careful about his relationship with his family (especially with his son) as the movie goes on.
  • Chewbacca Defense: In a deleted scene, Fletcher defends an incredibly guilty mugger, somehow spinning his robbing an old man at the ATM and beating up a cop who tried to arrest him into his trying to help the man pick up dropped coins, being mistaken for a mugger, then attacked by the police. It's truly epic to watch. And it works.
  • Cheating with the Milkman: If you listen closely to the "sex tape" you can hear the man Samantha Cole is having sex with say "I have to go clean the pool."
  • Comically Missing the Point:
    Greta: Because of men like you, he won! My friend had to pay the burglar six thousand dollars. Is that justice?
    Fletcher: No!... I'd have got him ten.
  • Cool Old Lady: Greta, Fletcher's secretary.
  • Corpsing: Miranda, during Fletcher's Tina Turner speech.
  • Cover Innocent Eyes and Ears: Mrs. Cole's children get this treatment from their caretaker when their mother's sex tape is played at the trial.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Fletcher, indeed.
  • Derailing Love Interests: Averted. Jerry is introduced as a genuinely nice and sweet man who treats Audrey and Max well, and although he doesn't care for Fletcher he's civil to him. When he realizes Fletcher still loves his family and the lengths he'll go to in order to keep them, he lets them go and just lets Audrey know he's there if she changes her mind. The only thing you could really say about him is that he's a bit of a goofball, which Audrey admits he can be sometimes.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: Instigated by Fletcher himself, no less. His last-minute discovery that Mrs. Cole was underaged when she got married, invalidating her pre-nup but leaving the common-law marriage intact ends up unduly costing an innocent man half his assets.note 
  • Did I Just Say That Out Loud?: When Miranda asks Fletcher what he thought of the sex last night, he involuntarily blurts out exactly what he was thinking. Afterwards he can hardly believe he just did that: "... I've had better??"
  • Digging Yourself Deeper: This is what leads to Fletcher getting slapped in the elevator.
  • Disposable Fiancé: Jerry.
  • Divorce Is Temporary: Fletcher and Audrey share a kiss in the final scene, at Max's sixth birthday party. They of course ask their son if he made another birthday wish to cause them to get back together - and he replies that he wished for roller blades, meaning Audrey and Fletcher's romance is rekindling on its own.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Fletcher when trying to get home after learning Audrey is going to move. "I'm an inconsiderate prick!"
  • Eureka Moment: Right when the case seems lost, Fletcher's client makes an off-hand remark about her age. This turns the case upside down.
    • As well when Audrey tells Fletcher about what Max wished for the previous night.
    • Although it doesn't work, Fletcher gets the idea to make it look like he was attacked in the bathroom (as to post-pone the trial) after banging his head on the wall too hard.
    Fletcher: Owie! ... (turns to a mirror) OWIE!
  • Evil Hand: In the Blue Pen scene (which is not red).
  • Evil Lawyer Joke: The page quote. And, indeed, the whole film.
  • Exact Words: Fletcher can't use them, but he can be caught by anyone else using them. As it says elsewhere on this page, not only can he not lie, but he can't even evade the truth, deceive while remaining silent or choose not to answer. Several times he gets into trouble because he is asked a question which he could have given a better answer to if the other person had just happened to phrase it differently.
    • When Fletcher calls his boss "a worthless steaming pile of cow dung" he has to add on the tag "figuratively speaking."
    • "Is that justice?!"
  • Extremely Short Timespan: Due to the nature of Max's wish, the entire movie (except the final scene) is set over three days, with Acts 2 and 3 set on the third day.
  • Face Fault: Only Jim Carrey can get away with doing one in live-action and make it look funny.
  • False Reassurance: He does manage to pull this off once, though. In order to get an extension on the trial without lying he beats himself up in the bathroom, stumbles into the court and truthfully describes his attacker (himself).
  • First Father Wins: In the end, Fletcher gets his family back together..
  • Flipping the Bird: "Here's your raise!"
  • Freudian Slip
  • Freudian Slippery Slope:
    Woman: Everybody's been real nice.
    Fletcher: Well, that's because you have big jugs! I mean...your boobs are huge! I mean, I want to squeeze them.....mama! (puckers up)
  • Frivolous Lawsuit: Fletcher's current case isn't one (although it is fraudulent), but he isn't against taking cases like this:
    Greta: Mr. Reede, several years ago a friend of mine had a burglar on her roof, a burglar. He fell through the kitchen skylight, landed on a cutting board, on a butcher's knife, cutting his leg. The burglar sued my friend, he sued my friend. And because of men like you, he won. My friend had to pay the burglar $6,000. Is that justice?
    Fletcher: No! [beat] I'd have got him ten.
  • Gag Boobs: Fletcher's interactions with his new neighbor, played by Krista Allen, who is best known for the Emmanuelle In Space series. And of course, Mrs. Cole being played by Jennifer Tilly doesn't hurt...
  • Gasshole: "It was me!" as Fletcher retreats from an elevator whose other passengers are holding their noses and looking daggers at him.
  • Genre Savvy: While Fletcher can't lie, he realizes that he can tell the truth in a deceptive way. The Wounded Gazelle Gambit he attempts below shows his sole attempt at this.
  • Gold Digger
  • Handshake Refusal: Averted at first, but then played straight. When Mr. Allan offers to make Fletcher a partner at his law firm, a stunned Fletcher accepts and shakes his hand briefly, but then jerks his hand away after his Heel Realization.
  • Headdesk
  • Heel Realization: "Lemme tell you somethin'! I'm a bad father! ... I mean... I'm a bad father..."
    • He actually has two of them, the first one above regarding his personal life, the second regarding his professional one when he wins the case for Mrs. Cole and realizes how horrible she truly is when she won't even let her ex-husband say goodbye to his kids. Needless to say he's rather horrified by his actions. Also, the people he was sucking up to make partners only saw the kids as legal leverage leaves him downright disgusted.
      • The second one hits him really hard. At the beginning, she agreed to sharing custody with the father, saying he's a good father. Aside from her infidelity, she seems to be much more pleasant at the beginning, and Fletcher realizes the much more unpleasant Mrs. Cole at the end was at least partially his fault.
  • Hero Antagonist: Dana Appleton and her legal team representing Mr. Cole.
  • Hilarious Outtakes: It's a Jim Carrey movie. What else would you expect?
    • "Mrs Cole! .... A goose!"
    • Carrey: 105 pounds! Yeah... in your BRA!
      Kurtz: Your Honor, I object!
      Carrey: You would!
      Kurtz: Overactor!
      Carrey: JEZEB— (begins laughing uproariously as everyone else cracks up and can't continue) THEY'RE ON TO ME!!!
      Kurtz: (still laughing) I'm sorry, he (pointing to director Tom Shadyac) made me do it!
    • Everything with the flip-top water pitcher, from pouring a cup and acting as if he were taking a leak, to making it talk.
      Carrey: It's working! I feel sorry for them already!
      Carrey (water pitcher voice: For will pay...a terrible price!
  • Hollywood Law:
    • After Samantha Cole leaves Miranda's office following her introduction to Fletcher, Miranda tells Fletcher that Samantha's case is worth a lot of money to the firm, hinting that the firm is being paid a contingency fee since it's later revealed that a settlement offer has been made and refused, whereas if the firm were accepting a flat fee, the amount of Samantha's settlement would be irrelevant, and there would be no need to bring Fletcher in to replace the attorney who refused unethical behavior earlier in the movie. Attorneys are barred from accepting divorce cases on a contingency basis, unless it's a suit to recover past due alimony or child support.
    • Contracts with a minor are considered voidable, not void ab initio. A minor who enters into a contract can choose to void it, but if she turns 18, she only has a limited window in which to declare the intention to void the contract. This window is usually six months — for marriage in California, it is two years. Past this window, the contract is considered ratified and must be executed. Given Samantha Cole's age at the time of the divorce hearing, both her marriage AND the prenup should have been considered ratified. However, even if the marriage were valid but the prenup not, her husband clearly states that he "didn't know she was a minor!" At this point he could probably get an annulment on the grounds of fraud, reverting Samantha to status quo ante matrimonium - i.e., legally in possession of none of his wealth.
    • One scene is premised on the idea that the judge can't stop Fletcher from badgering a witness because "it's his witness."
    • Fletcher's secretary claims someone broke into her friend's house, fell and injured himself in her kitchen and sued her with the help of a lawyer like Fletcher. Fletcher then claims he could have gotten him more. Such a suit is legally impossible, even in California — an intruder illegally entering a dwelling cannot sue for injuries caused by breaking and entering.
    • Samantha's husband's lawyer presents a tape recording to be used against her in court. Tape recordings are not admissible as evidence in a court of law, even though the content of the tape is irrelevant in her case.
  • Hurricane of Euphemisms: "You slammed her! You dunked her doughnut! You gave her dog a Snausage! YOU STUFFED HER LIKE A THANKSGIVING TURKEY!" [Makes gobbling noises]
  • Ignoring by Singing: Fletcher knows he is cursed to speak the truth when answering a question, but not if he can't hear the question!
  • The Immodest Orgasm: Mrs Cole, revealed by her "sex tape".
  • Inflationary Dialogue
  • Insult Backfire: Fletcher hurls a metric ton of verbal abuse at his boss who finds it hilarious. He then goes all the way and insults everyone in the room who all laugh at his insults, thinking it's a roast.
    • It does backfire for Miranda, however. She was out for revenge after Fletcher told her, "I've had better." When she realized he was incapable of lying, she throws him in front of the committee in hopes that his Brutal Honesty would ruin him.
  • Insult to Injury: A passerby giving Fletcher money as he sags despondently on the courthouse steps following his self-inflicted beatdown.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Jerry lets Audrey stay in LA so Max doesn't have to be away from his father.
  • Karma Houdini: Mrs. Cole has cheated on her husband several times, it's hinted that she's not completely sure both her children are her husband's, and after Fletcher convinces her she's the victim, she becomes a complete Jerkass who uses her children for emotional gain in court. And thanks to a technicality no one saw coming, she wins the case and gets the standard divorce settlement of half her husband's assets, over 10 million dollars, and decides to sue for sole custody of the kids to get even more money in child support and deny her husband the right to them. Her getting away with all this is actually a major plot point, when Fletcher realizes it's his fault she was able to do all this and succeed.
  • Kick the Dog: After the judge rules in Samantha Cole's favor and grants her 11 million dollars, she then declares that she isn't going to adhere to their original deal to share custody, and instead plans to contest custody to get another $10,000 from him. She specifically says she's doing this just to hit him where it hurts.
  • Kicking My Own Butt: Fletcher beats himself up in the bathroom in a last-ditch effort to get the court case postponed. He lampshades it when someone walks in on him doing the act.
  • Large Ham: Jim Carrey, of course. The outtakes even have this exchange:
    Swoosie Kurtz: Your Honor, I object!
    Carrey: You would!
    Kurtz: Overactor!
    Carrey: JE-ZE-BEL!!!
    • Followed by Kurtz pointing to someone off-camera (Tom Shadyac, the director), saying he put her up to it, and Carrey hugs her, mugging hammily, "Oh no! They're on to me!"
  • Long List: When Fletcher is stopped after reckless driving...
    Officer: You know why I pulled you over?
    Fletcher: Depends on how long you were following me! [winces]
    Officer: Why don't we just take it from the top?
    Fletcher: [sighs] Here goes...I sped, I followed too closely, I ran a stop sign, I almost hit a Chevy, I sped some more, I failed to yield at a crosswalk, I changed lanes at the intersection, I changed lanes without signaling while running a red light and speeding!
    Officer: Is that all?
    Fletcher: [groaning] No... [gestures with his eyes; when the cop doesn't get it, says] I have unpaid parking tickets. [Opens his glove compartment and there are so many tickets they spill out; whimpers] Be gentle.
  • Loophole Abuse: The film plays with this back and forth. On the one hand, sometimes Fletcher is able to tell the truth in a roundabout way; when he beats himself up and the Judge asks who did it, Fletcher gives a physical description of himself rather than just say he did it himself. He also seems able to say things that may or may not be true, but he believes to be true. On the other hand when it comes time to rehearse Falk's testimony, he discovers he can't ask a question if he knows Falk will lie about it. During the trial he does manage to get the questions out a couple times, but can't help himself from immediately objecting to himself. Additionally, Fletcher is compelled to answer direct questions, denying the chance for him to just not give an answer, truth or lie.
  • Magical Realism: How the birthday wish came true is never explained. It seems it just sometimes happens in the movie's world.
    Fletcher: This is one of those 24-hour curses.
    Greta: Yeah, those've been going around.
  • Make a Wish: The film's Applied Phlebotinum.
  • Male Gaze: Fletcher in the elevator scene.
  • Married to the Job: The premise of the story.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Averted with the main story, which is clearly some sort of magic, but in the epilogue Audrey and Fletcher kiss at Max's next birthday, implying that they're going to get back together. After what happened the last time he had a birthday, they're Genre Savvy enough to immediately ask if he wished for them to get back together. He says he wished for rollerblades, but he's not under any magical compulsion to tell the truth so this may or may not be Blatant Lies.
    • It's also possible that he did wish for his parents to fall in love again, but the wish had no actual effect, either because it was already happening or because It Only Works Once
  • Meaningful Name: "Fletcher Reede". A fletcher is an arrowsmith, while a reed of course, is the wetland plant. The two play into Fletcher being a crooked lawyer as opposed to a "straight arrow".
  • Motor Mouth: See Long List.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Fletcher has two. One when he realizes how he's functionally ruined his relationship with his son, and a second when he realizes that his lies from the previous day have turned Mrs. Cole into a petty, vengeful ex-wife.
  • Nice Guys Finish Last: Jerry. It's actually pretty hard to fathom why Audrey would choose her ex-husband over him.
  • No Indoor Voice: Pretty much any of Fletcher's pronouncements after the realization sets in, but maybe most famously: STOP BREAKIN' THE LAW, ASSHOOOOOLE!
  • Off on a Technicality: How Fletcher wins the trial. He even cites it.
  • Organ Autonomy: THE CLAW!
  • Penultimate Outburst
  • Principles Zealot: Essentially, this is the result of the wish—Fletcher is an unwilling zealot, admittedly, but his behavior matches a classic comedic Principles Zealot pretty closely.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "I! CAN'T! LIE!"
  • Race for Your Love: Interesting version - it's a father's love for his son that's being raced for here.
  • Really Gets Around:
    Fletcher: After all that, your husband wants to deny you a fair and equitable share of the marital assets based on one single act of indiscretion.
    Mrs. Cole: Seven.
    Fletcher: Pardon me?
  • Really Seventeen Years Old: Fletcher discovers that Mrs. Cole lied about her age when she got married, rendering the prenuptial and the original marriage contract void, but leaving her still entitled to half her (ex)husband's wealth as they had lived together long enough to be considered common-law married anyways.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Fletcher's immediate boss learns of his current problem and takes him to the firm's board meeting where he regretfully tells everyone the honest truth of what he thinks of them. They end up in stitches laughing, loving the no-holds barred roasting.
  • Required Secondary Powers: In a way, and for plot purposes. Not only does he have a truth-telling "superpower", but he also seems to be incapable of holding back the truth that is on his mind and spits it right out. For instance when he's pulled over by the police Fletcher seems incapable of reserving his 5th amendment right to stay silent, or simply say "yes" when asked if he knows why he was pulled over. (See "Long List" above for a quote from the scene).
    • He also learns, to his horror, that he can't ask witnesses in court rehearsed questions if he knows they're going to lie. And he demonstrates a zig-zagging inability not to tell the direct truth — he never tells the judge he's ill but then talks as if he is, but when asked if he can proceed with the trial after his "mugging", he says yes instead of simply stating he'd prefer not to.
  • The Roast: Fletcher ends doing this to a room full of executives once his boss finds his insults hilarious.
  • Sarcastic Confession: When forced to tell the senior partners what he really thinks of them, he saves himself from near-certain firing when the chairman thinks he's being roasted and starts laughing.
  • Self-Deprecation / Lampshade Hanging:
    Max: If I keep making this face (makes a face) will it get stuck that way?
    Fletcher: Not in a million years—in fact, some people make a good living that way.
  • Shockingly Expensive Bill: Fletcher's unpaid parking tickets come to $1654.11.
  • Shut Up, Kirk!: Played for Laughs since Fletcher does this to himself!
    Fletcher: What's wrong with me?! (suddenly monotone) I'm getting what I deserve. I'm reaping what I sow, I—(claps both hands heavily over his mouth, while involuntarily ranting)
  • Sleeping Their Way To The Top: Fletcher sleeps with Miranda, his (female, good-looking) immediate boss in the hopes that it'll help further his career to finally make partner. His son's birthday wish takes effect at exactly the wrong time...
  • Sleeping with the Boss: Fletcher is sleeping with his boss — until the wish comes into effect and he makes a truthful (and uncomplimentary) comment about the sex they just had.
  • Spit Take: Reede does an over-the-top one right before his That Was Objectionable moment.
  • Stealth Insult: See Sarcastic Confession.
  • Taking the Kids: Two parallel cases - Fletcher's client insists on taking the kids from their loving father not because she cares about them but because she can use them to milk him for child support payments. Meanwhile, Fletcher is in danger of losing his own son when Audrey moves to Boston.
  • Tension-Cutting Laughter: Provided by Fletcher's boss who misinterprets Fletcher's Brutal Honesty as a roast.
  • That Was Objectionable:
    Fletcher: Your honor, I object!
    Judge: And why is that, Mr. Reede?
    Fletcher: Because it's devastating to my case!
    Judge: Overruled.
    Fletcher: Good call!
  • Tongue-Tied
  • Too Much Information: When the judge asks Fletcher how he's doing this morning, Fletcher replies with, "I'm a little upset about a bad sexual episode last night."
    Judge: Well, you're still young. It'll happen more and more. In the meantime, what do you say we get down to business?
    • One of the reasons Fletcher doesn't want to talk to his mother on the phone:
    Fletcher: (on phone) Hello? Mom! Hi! I wasn't really on vacation. (...) Because I didn't want to talk to you! (...) Because you insist on talking about Dad's bowel movements: Size, color, frequency!
  • Truth Serum
  • The Unfair Sex: Parodied. Jennifer Tilly's character Really Gets Around, but Fletcher convinces her that she was "driven into the arms of another man." Meanwhile, he's pretty much lost his son as a result of his own infidelity.
    Audrey: You forget that when we were married, I wasn't having sex nearly as often as you were.
  • Volleying Insults: The scene in the Large Ham quote.
  • Wham Line: Fletcher manages the rare feat of delivering one to himself, courtesy of the truth-telling curse.
    Fletcher: (angry) Now you listen to me - I'm a bad father! I... I mean... (horrified) I'm a bad father...
  • When You Coming Home, Dad?
  • Women's Mysteries: Inverted - Fletcher uses men's mysteries to get a recess in the court, citing a link between a full bladder and male prostate issues and counting on the judge not knowing whether this is medically accurate or not. Played for Laughs when the judge asks if that's true (to which a bewildered - and still forced to tell the truth - Fletcher responds, "It has to be!").
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Fletcher beats the ever-living crap out of himself in the bathroom so that the court session could be postponed. When asked who did it, he describes the assailant-himself-as "A madman, your honor! A desperate fool on the end of his pitiful rope!" Still, Fletcher's scheme fails when he's forced to admit that he still feels physically able to continue with the case.
    Fletcher: About 6'2, 180 pounds, big teeth, kinda gangly. [closes mouth to cover teeth]''
  • Your Cheating Heart: One of the main conflicts between the Coles. It's also strongly implied to be at least partly responsible for ending Fletcher and Audrey's marriage.
    Audrey: You forget that when we were married, I wasn't having sex nearly as often as you were.