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Film / Big Fat Liar

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To tell you the truth, even the poster is OVERRATED.

Big Fat Liar is a 2002 kids' comedy film starring Frankie Muniz, Amanda Bynes and Paul Giamatti and directed by Shawn Levy. Very over-the-top, although what can you expect from writer Dan Schneider.

In a modern-day retelling of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, 14-year-old Jason Shepherd (Muniz) is a Big Fat Liar who lies all the time to everyone. Then a greedy movie producer Marty Wolf (Giamatti) steals his creative writing essay to use it as the basis for his next blockbuster and no-one will believe Jason when he explains what happened. Jason decides that the only way to prove his case is to sneak off to L.A. with his best friend Kaylee (Bynes) and convince Wolf to confess, which soon involves inflicting a series of escalating pranks on the guy until he has a nervous breakdown. Hilarity Ensues.

A quasi-sequel/remake, Bigger Fatter Liar, was released Direct to Video on April 18, 2017, starring Barry Bostwick, Ricky Garcia and Jodelle Ferland. Here's the trailer.

This film provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: Vince the stuntman defends practical stunts and effects to Jerkass producer Marty, who thinks CGI can do anything, and thus derisively calls him an "old man", played by Lee Majors... Gee, Colt, times have changed, haven't they?
  • Adam Westing: Jaleel White. Don't call him Urkel — he will get pissed. One has to wonder what would've happened if they called him the fastest thing alive.
  • Adults Are Useless: While played straight in the beginning, it is later Subverted when Jason and Kaylee soon find a healthy number of adults in Hollywood who help them in their payback plot.
  • An Aesop: "The truth is NOT overrated".
  • Arcade Sounds: Jason plays a Pin Bot pinball table, which makes electro-mechanical sounds and chimes instead of the game's digital music and voices.
  • As Himself: Jaleel White appears in many scenes as himself in large part to poke fun at child actors still trying to stay relevant in their adult years.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: The plot of the In-Universe story Big Fat Liar overall remains in the realm of Noodle Incident, but it involves the tale's protagonist somehow becoming a giant.
  • Bad Boss: Marty takes this one up to eleven.
  • Big "OMG!":
  • Box Office Bomb: In-Universe, Wolf's film Whitaker and Fowl about a police officer who partners with a chicken is a 30 million dollar bomb (not to mention the scathing reviews it receives by critics) which almost gets production of Big Fat Liar shut down.
  • Break the Haughty: The main plot of the film — the protagonists prank Wolf over and over in an attempt to get him to give Jason the credit.
  • Brick Jokes:
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Jason is a High-School Hustler, The Chessmaster, and capable of writing a short story good enough to be seen as Hollywood-adaptation material in a single night. He's also a Ridiculous Procrastinator with a lying habit.
  • The Cameo: Director Shawn Levy, Bynes' All That colleague Kenan Thompson, and Dustin Diamond all appear at Wolf's house party.
  • Cassandra Truth: The main plot of the movie involves Jason being completely unable to convince anybody, except for his best friend, that Marty Wolf plagiarized his short story because he's got a history of chronic lying. It's even the reason why there's No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup of said short story for him to give proof — the teacher wanted him to write it by hand to make sure he didn't just copy-paste some short tale from the Internet and try to pass it off as his.
  • Casting Couch: A deleted scene shows Wolf getting interrupted by work just as he's trying to get the ball rolling.
  • Chekhov's Skill: All of Marty's former employees utilize one in the payback.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Marty treats every single one of his employees like crap. It's no wonder why Jason and Kaylee have hardly any trouble getting all of them involved in their plot.
  • Circling Monologue: Between Jason and Marty. Exploited by the cameraman in Marty's Engineered Public Confession.
  • Confucian Confusion: Marty Wolf uses this as a racist insult towards his Asian director, and at the end said Asian director gets back at him with one of his own.
    Dusty Wong: I told you, Wolf, the only way to shoot this scene is from 12 different camera angles, with birds flying around. By the by, Confucius say, "Kastang! You're busted! Rock and roll, baby!"
  • Cool Old Guy: Vince, who has been a stuntman for a very long time.
  • Creator Killer: In-Universe, Marty's career is destroyed once his Engineered Public Confession over his plagiarism of Jason's story happens.
  • Crying Wolf: Doing this all the time is what keeps everyone from believing that Jason lost his homework on his way to school. That, and the fact that a producer stealing a kid's script is highly improbable under ordinary circumstances. So, unfortunately, even if Jason didn't have a reputation as a liar, it would be a pretty easy thing to disbelieve anyway.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Marty Wolf, when he's not SCREAMING IN EVERYONE'S FACES!
  • Defeat Means Menial Labor: The final scene of the film shows Marty working as a party clown.
  • Disappointed in You: When Jason begs his parents to believe him, his father just coldly rejects him. This hurts Jason worse than anything else, and it is what motivates him to get Marty to tell the truth.
  • Disguised in Drag: When Bret has to pose as Kaylee to visit her Grandma Pearl in her stead. Fortunately, the woman is senile and half-blind, so it works.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Marty accidentally rear-ends The Masher's tire for his monster truck, resulting in his Cool Car getting smashed.
    • Frank the limo driver's beef with Wolf started because of this; an aspiring actor, Frank asked Wolf if he could audition for a movie the latter was producing. Rather than just saying no, Wolf fired him, vandalized Frank's headshot, and faxed it to every casting agent in Los Angeles, torpedoing his career before it even got off the ground. He ends up getting the lead role for Jason's version of Big Fat Liar after Wolf's downfall.
  • Disturbed Doves: See Ironic Echo below. A whole lot of them appear during the final confrontation for no good reason other than an In-Universe invocation of the Rule of Cool.
  • D.I.Y. Disaster: Jason and Kaylee purposely wire Marty's car to do this, with the brake making the car horn go off, and a lot of other wacky stuff.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Both the old lady and the muscle guy Wolf crashes his car into, along with all of his employees.
  • Do Wrong, Right: While Jason is being driven to school by Marty in his limo, he recounts how he got into trouble by telling a lie. Marty simply lectures him on telling a bad lie.
  • Double Standard: Violence, Child on Adult: The film tries to play the party kids and later Masher's son beating up Marty as a hilarious joke. Granted, Marty is a huge Jerkass, but those kids are only beating him up because they think he's a clown. Imagine if the adults did that to kids...
  • Drives Like Crazy: Jaleel invokes this as part of the final plan.
  • Dumb Muscle: The Masher. Marty has a good reason to call him a steroid-pusher...except for the fact that he runs over Marty's car with his monster truck. Marty said that within earshot of The Masher so...yeah, he was asking for it.
  • Easily Forgiven: Rare protagonist example. Jason lied to limo driver Frank Jackson to get transportation. Frank is understandably mad when he sees Jason again, pointing out the trouble he got Frank into because Jason caused him to miss the person he was actually supposed to chauffeur. Then Jason mentions he is trying to get Marty Wolf, and Frank reveals he has some very bad history with him and is immediately on board with helping Jason get Wolf.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Jason goes to Los Angeles, pulls off the caper of the century, and takes down a big-shot producer to get his report and the truth back.
  • Engineered Public Confession: In the climax, Wolf shouts "I stole Jason Shepard's paper and turned it into Big Fat Liar!", then brags to Jason that nobody will ever know the truth about the plagiarism. Director Dustin "Dusty" Wong and his crew were filming the whole thing on multiple cameras and showing it to the news media, Marcus Duncan, and Jason's parents, dramatically vindicating Jason once and for all and sending Wolf's career right down the toilet.
  • Establishing Character Moment: We first learn what a selfish jerk Marty is when his response to learning from his chauffeur that they just hit a kid is "I'm on the phone!"
  • Failed a Spot Check:
    • Marty doesn't notice that his swim in his pool dyed his skin blue until he's partway through his shower.
    • Some of the cameras and crew capturing Marty's Engineered Public Confession were concealed. Several others were in plain sight of the rooftop where Marty and Jason have their final confrontation, which Marty fails to notice until Dustin yells "Cut!" and the windows behind Marty open up to reveal one of the cameras and crew.
  • The Farmer and the Viper: The whole movie, Marty's just been having one Kick the Dog moment after another, but what really makes it clear what a scumbag he is, is when Jason helps him save the movie, only for Marty to trick Jason into thinking he was going to hold his end of the bargain, but immediately call security as he gloats about his victory. This comes back to bite him hard after his behavior causes his secretary to make a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Fat Bastard: How Marty treats his own public relations manager.
  • Foil: Both Jason and Marty are compulsive liars, but Jason genuinely feels bad about it, tries to earn people's trust back, and is actively trying to stop doing it, while Marty is just a straight-up Jerkass and doesn't care who he hurts with it.
  • Formally-Named Pet: Marty Wolf has a stuffed monkey named Mr. Funnybones.
  • Former Child Star: Poor Jaleel White just can't be taken seriously.
  • Girl Friday: Kaylee, to Jason, and how.
  • Grandparental Obliviousness: Kaylee's grandmother Pearl. Quoth Jason: "That woman doesn't even know what year it is."
  • Groin Attack: Heavily implied to be what Marty (dressed as "Wolfy the Clown") got in the ending, on Masher's order ("yo, Little Mash, show him your nutcracker!").
  • HA HA HA—No: After Marty is exposed, Jason thanks him for teaching him that the truth is not overrated. Marty responds by laughing sarcastically before murderously trying to attack him for exposing him.
  • Hated by All: Absolutely nobody likes Marty Wolf. Just mentioning the plan to get back at Wolf is instantly enough to rally absolutely everyone to Jason's side.
  • Hate Sink: Marty is extremely unlikable, being a slimy, obnoxious jerk who happily bullies his employees and tries to pass off a stolen story as his own creation. This works in the movie's favor, as it means you'll feel little to no sympathy for him as he continually gets the karma he so richly deserves.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Monty has one, along with all of Marty Wolf's employees.
  • Heroic BSoD: Jason has a mild one when Marty breaks his promise to tell the truth about Big Fat Liar to Jason's parents in exchange for help on the movie and tells his security guard Rocko to send them back home to Michigan (but snaps out of it when Wolf's secretary Monty, who is fed up with Wolf's constant mistreatment towards her agrees to help them out.)
  • High-School Hustler: Jason at school. He's very good at it, but the conflict happens because he's been caught lying a few too many times for his own good.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Marty's over-arrogance is pretty much what does him in.
  • Hollywood California: The setting of most of the movie.
  • Hollywood Skydiving: The end of the big chase has Jason dive off a five-story building, only to safely land on an inflatable landing pad.
  • Horrible Hollywood: It is when you work for Marty Wolf.
  • Humiliation Conga: What Marty goes through in the latter half of the movie when Jason goes after him.
  • Hyper-Competent Sidekick: Monty has been writing Wolf's scripts for him for years. Overlaps with Beleaguered Assistant, as she gets nothing but grief for her trouble.
    • Kaylee is definitely this for Jason in the fact that, while he's a good idea man, Kaylee's the one doing things like legwork and doing fake calls with her voice disguised.
  • I Am Not Spock: In-Universe. Poor Jaleel White...
    "How many times have I told you not to call me "Urkel?!" My name is Jaleel White! Urkel was a character I played when I was a child!"
  • Implied Love Interest: Kaylee to Jason. They're best friends with only small hints here and there that there might be something more.
  • In a World…: Parodied in the (in-universe) Big Fat Liar movie trailer.
  • Ironic Echo: "12 camera angles with birds flying around..."
    • Jocelyn Davis, the "VP of Twinkies," makes a visual Brick Joke out of hers. Look at what thing she takes a huge bite out of while sarcastically telling Marty that she invited everybody to watch his final Humiliation Conga.
  • Jerkass: Marty Wolf should be a seven-letter word.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: When Marty hits the monster truck, he correctly points out it was the old lady's fault and he just lightly tapped a tire so it was really no big deal.
  • Jerk Jock: Bret Calloway.
  • Kick the Dog: Marty Wolf, constantly. A few notable examples include:
    • When Jason arrives at Wolf's office to convince him to return the stolen paper and call Jason's dad to confess that he stole it, Wolf instead purposefully burns the paper and makes a big scene of it (as in "Whoops! Clumsy me, look what I did! Here, we better put some water on it!!" [dumps liquor on the paper to fully immolate it, nearly burning Jason with the flashover because he's trying to put out the fire]).
    • Also when Wolf denies stuntman Vince's request to take his granddaughter to the birthday party, in the rudest manner possible.
    Wolf: Here's the movie business, Grandpa. You can take your personal day, in a year or two, WHEN YOU'RE DEAD!
  • Kick The Son Of A Bitch: The kids at the birthday party had no idea what a scumbag Wolf was before they attacked him. They just wanted to hurt the birthday clown. Still, it is no less deserved.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Wolf finds himself hit hard with this one at two birthday parties. At the first, the kids mistake him for a clown. In the other, when he really is working as a party clown, they have no reaction to his presence until the birthday boy is instructed to make with his "nutcracker" on him (which he does).
  • Kitsch Collection: The secretary's tacky stuffed dog collection. It gives Kaylee enough of a cold reading of her personality that she successfully distracts her by saying someone hurt a dog by parking on its tail.
  • Large Ham: Paul Giamatti really enjoyed himself making this movie.
  • Late for School: The opening, which showcases Jason Shepherd's casual use of lies for anything from saying he had breakfast to A Dog Ate My Homework.
  • Like a Duck Takes to Water: Jason, a teller of tall tales, writes a story that even a Hollywood producer thought was good enough to turn into a movie. His father lampshades this, thinking a kid who lies as often as he does could easily tell a really good fictional tale.
  • Literal Metaphor: The In-Universe story Big Fat Liar involves...a liar that somehow becomes a giant.
  • Locking MacGyver in the Store Cupboard: Once he captures Jason and Kaylee, Wolf sends them back to the prop warehouse to pack for their flight home. The same warehouse where they previously got every tool they'd used against him so far....
  • Lonely at the Top: Marty is probably one of the most successful producers in the movie biz, but he's pretty much alienated anyone close to him which ends up biting him in the rear.
  • Loophole Abuse: "They told me to pick up a little blue car. They didn't say anything about a little blue man."
  • Machiavelli Was Wrong: The film's lesson is that being a self-serving liar will not work out in the long run. After using a web of lies to get out of trouble, Jason is dumped into summer school when his parents and teacher don't believe him when he says that some Hollywood producer stole his homework. That producer, Marty Wolf, has spent his whole life being a lying, abusive jerk to his employees. When Jason plans one last glorious revenge scheme, all of Wolf's employees jump at the chance to do it. The specific moment when Wolf's secretary turns on him is when Wolf gets Jason arrested, despite Jason helping him out.
  • Massive Multiplayer Scam: The climax is Jason and Kaley getting every single person that Marty Wolf has pissed off during the film (and that is a lot of people) together to pull a Humiliation Conga scam on Wolf that will end with him giving an Engineered Public Confession.
  • Mean Boss: Marty Wolf is a hardcore example of this, demeaning every single employee that works for him, and the majority of them get it by him screaming to their faces. It's no wonder they all agreed to help Jason expose Marty's plagiarism.
  • Meaningful Name: Perpetual liar Jason Shepherd has his English paper stolen by Marty Wolf and, of course, Jason isn't believed when he explains this. Note:Their last names refer to Aesop's fable the Boy Who Cried Wolf.
  • Metaphorgotten:
    Kaylee: I wanna see a broken man, people. I mean, broken as in, "I hit a baseball through the window" broken. I want you to turn him into mincemeat, and I don't even know what mincemeat is! I want him to cry for his mommy! "Wah! Wah! Mommy, mommy, mommy!" Do you read me?! 'Cause I don't think you read me!
  • Mexican Standoff: At the climax, involving trading Mr. Funnybones for a confession that Marty stole Big Fat Liar.
  • Mortality Phobia: During the part of the climactic hustle where Marty is forced into a tandem jump with stuntman Vince, Marty is screaming he doesn't want to die all the way down.
  • Mr. Exposition / Mission Briefing: Jason in his presentation of the scam against Wolf.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Wolf is such a Jerkass, his assistant Monty and pretty much every one of his employees plot his downfall with Jason.
  • Mocking Music: Thanks to Jason and Kaylee tampering with his car, Marty's radio is stuck on a station playing Eiffel 65's "I'm Blue (Da Ba Dee)", right after getting his skin tinted.
  • Morality Pet: Marty Wolf's stuffed monkey, Mr. Funnybones, is the closest thing to something he genuinely cares about.
  • The Nicknamer: Marty Wolf, and a mean one at that (meaning zero Flowery Insults).
  • No Peripheral Vision: Marty doesn't notice his entire body is blue until he looks straight in the mirror.
  • No-Respect Guy: Anyone who works for Marty. Just pick one person, and rest assured there shall be at least one scene of Wolf screaming belittling rants to their face.
  • The Not-Love Interest: Kaylee to Jason, who goes to Hollywood with him and helps him get the credit and story from Wolf, but neither one hints at anything other than pure friendship. Frankie Muniz said this trope was intentional on the part of the filmmakers, feeling a truly platonic friendship without ever bringing up the subject of romantic interest was more authentic to actual friendships of kids their age.
  • Obsolete Mentor: Wolf treats Vince the stunt coordinator like this when he's still perfectly qualified, calling him names like "Dinosaur," "Gramps," and "Methuselah."
  • Oh, Crap!: Marty has two significant instances. The first is when he goes to the ledge of the building on which the Engineered Public Confession occurred (and some news teams are waiting on the ground, along with the rest of his victims). The other is when he is reduced to being a clown in the final scene of the movie when he meets the son of the same wrestler whose car he wrecked and insulted earlier.
  • Orange/Blue Contrast: Marty's hair and skin after the shower. Also his makeup for his new job as a party clown.
  • The Oner: Jaleel White's intro scene. The deleted scenes reel has an even longer version.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Bret as Kaylee, which isn't a disguise so much as him wearing her clothes. Fortunately, the person that was being fooled just so happens to be a seemingly senile elderly woman.
  • Plagiarism in Fiction: The film is about the victim of an act of plagiarism trying to get the plagiarist to confess. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Jason and Kaylee. They don't really have a romance arc in the film, but rather are two "dudes" tearing apart someone who wronged one of them.
  • Prima Donna Director: Technically a producer, but Marty still fits this with an ego that would rival James Cameron. Amusingly enough, the actual In-Universe director of Big Fat Liar, Dustin "Dusty" Wong, is himself actually a Reasonable Authority Figure and spends quite a bit of the film as one of Marty's chew toys.
  • "Psycho" Strings: Heard when Wolf realizes his skin and hair were dyed blue and orange, respectively.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Marcus Duncan, Marty's superior, is a Hollywood producer who isn't an abusive Jerkass and is himself sick of Marty's incompetence. He immediately sacks Marty after learning he stole a kids' homework.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Like any producer would steal creative writing from some kid's backpack and turn it into his next big movie...which is the reason why Wolf did it in the first place.
  • The Reveal: In the rooftop climax, Marty gloats that Jason is the only one who's heard the confession he's about to make. Following the multiple cameras that caught him there, he goes over to the edge of the roof to find...a giant crowd, including most of the not-yet-accounted-for victims and Jason's parents, and a collection of TV screens on which it was clearly broadcast.
  • Running Over the Plot: The plot begins when Jason is hit by Marty Wolf's limo and is given a ride to school as a result. Jason accidentally leaves his assignment in the limo and Marty steals a movie idea from them, kicking off the main conflict.
  • Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Gender inverted for Kaylee and Jason, though they play it absolutely straight during the Mission Briefing for The Plan.
  • Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!: The old lady whose car Wolf almost crashes into, and who rear-ends his car into The Masher's truck. Wolf himself lampshades this.
  • Show Within a Show: The short story Big Fat Liar, written by Jason Shepherd and plagiarized by Marty Wolf, the filming process of which happens in the background of the main plot and Jason disrupts at various moments to try to strong-arm Marty into confessing.
  • Showdown at High Noon: Wolf casually passes by Jason on a set that looks like an old Wild West road, does a double take after mentioning him, and...the chase is on.
  • Skyward Scream: After his car is sabotaged by Jason and Kaylee, all Wolf can do is rage against the "rotten kids" and take his anger out on his car before screaming out "SHEPHEEEEEEEEERD!" to the skies as "I'm Blue (Da Ba Dee)" plays at full volume.
  • Slow-Motion Drop: Parodied in the movie trailer of the movie-in-a-movie Big Fat Liar.
  • Smug Snake: Marty Wolf does whatever he wants and has no respect for anybody. He doesn't care about a meeting with Marcus Duncan, a vice president of the studio, until he learns that Marcus was promoted and is now president.
  • Stealth Pun: Jason always lies until he finally tells the truth that someone stole his paper, and no one believes him. The thief? Producer Marty Wolf. Jason is the Boy Who Cried Wolf, literally.
  • Stern Teacher: Mrs. Phyllis Caldwell, Jason's English teacher. She knows Shepherd can do better, but unfortunately Jason is the perfect example of Brilliant, but Lazy and a chronic liar.
  • Stunned Silence: Marty has to take a few seconds to process the fact that Jason and Kaylee had been behind his skin being dyed blue, his hair being dyed orange, his headset being superglued to his ear and his car controls getting sabotaged.
    Wolf: ...Y-you did this?!
  • Summer School Sucks: The movie's first act involves the protagonist being sent to summer school because he fell behind, and needed to produce a story for his English class. When it goes missing (because a sleazy film producer stole his paper, It Makes Sense in Context) he is sent to summer school.
  • Surrogate Soliloquy: Marty with his puppet Mr. Funnybones. He talks to it a lot.
  • Two Words: I Can't Count: In the awful movie-in-a-movie, Whitaker and Fowl, Whitaker is told "shut the heck up" is two words.
    Listen, Whitaker, I am not your father and I'm not your priest. I got two words for you: shut the heck up! You talk way too much... can we cut?
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Jason helps Wolf make the BFL pitch spiel at the Whitaker and Fowl premiere party a smashing success and restores the latter's career to impress Mr. Duncan. How does Wolf repay Jason? Go back on his promise once again and instead have security escort him and Kaylee out. Especially despicable since he had just sincerely thanked him for his help with the party!
  • Unsportsmanlike Gloating: Oh boy. And this backfires against Marty just five seconds later.
    Wolf: Yeah, I stole your story, whoop-dee-doodle-do! You happy now? I STOLE JASON SHEPHERD'S PAPER AND TURNED IT INTO BIG FAT LIAR! Do you know who's listening? No one. And they never will. So for the last time, give it up. Because I will never ever, like never-ever-ever-ever-ever-ever-ever-ever-ever-infinity tell the truth!
  • Vehicular Sabotage: Besides Jason and Kaylee dying his skin blue, his hair orange, and super-gluing his headset, they also tampered with the controls in Marty's car, causing humorous malfunctions.
  • Villain Ball: If Marty had just called Jason's father like he asked (and he had the chance to twice), Jason would have just let the whole thing go, and he'd still have his movie and career. After all, who's going to believe Jason's father over a famous Hollywood producer?
  • Villainous Breakdown: How Marty reacts to Jason tricking him into confessing his crimes in full view of everyone else.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Jason seems noticeably more interested in proving his honesty to his father than to his mother. Beyond that, Jason doesn't want recognition, credit, or money for his writing the story. He wants his father to know that he wasn't lying about writing it.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Marty would, especially if that child has tricked him into confessing to his crimes.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Pretending the dog-lover secretary's car is parked on a dog's tail.
  • You Are Fat: "You sure you're not the VP of Twinkies?"
  • You, Get Me Coffee: Marty's attitude towards Monty, his personal Girl Friday (or rather Hypercompetent Sidekick).
  • You Have to Believe Me!: Poor Jason couldn't catch a break with explaining his missing report.
  • Younger Than They Look: Jason and Kaylee are both 14 but appear like they could be 16-17 years old.
  • Zany Scheme: Jason comes up with these, A Simple Plan, and then the most elaborate plan of all.

You were right, troper. The Truth: It's NOT overrated.