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Film / Big Fat Liar

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Big Fat Liar is a 2002 kids' comedy film starring Frankie Muniz, Amanda Bynes, and Paul Giamatti. 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 director 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.

It got 44% (rotten) on Rotten Tomatoes, but surprisingly got two thumbs up from Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper.


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:

  • 0% Approval Rating: Absolutely nobody likes Marty Wolf. Jason just mentioning the plan of getting back at Wolf is enough to get people on his side.
  • Actor Allusion: Vince the stuntman that defends practical stunts and effects to Jerk Ass producer Marty who thinks CGI can do anything and thus derisively calls him an "old man", played by Lee Mayors... 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, Jason and Kaylee soon find that there is a healthy number of adults in Hollywood who help them in their payback plot.
  • Advertisement:
  • 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.
  • Bare Your Midriff: Kaylee wears a belly shirt for part of the movie.
  • Big "OMG!":
    • Marty gets one when he's in the shower and finally realizes that he's covered in blue thanks to the blue dye put in his pool, and has just put orange coloring in his hair to top it all off.
    • The wrestler guy also does this when he recognizes him from earlier in the ending of the film.
  • Box Office Bomb: In-universe, Wolf's film Whittiker and Fowl about a police officer who's 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 him over and over in an attempt to get him to give Jason the credit.
  • Brick Joke:
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Jason is a High School Hustler, The Chessmaster and also capable of writing a short story good enough to be seen as Hollywood-adaptation material in a single night. He's 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 even is 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-pasted some short tale from the Internet and tried 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.
  • Cool Old Guy: Vince, who has been a stuntman for a very long time.
  • 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 director 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.
    • Which is precisely why Wolf decided to steal it in the first place.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Marty Wolf, when he's not SCREAMING IN EVERYONE'S FACES.
  • 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.
  • Disturbed Doves: See Ironic Echo below. A whole lot of them appear on 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.
  • 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 the man beats Marty up and 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 a limo driver to get transportation. The limo driver is understandably mad when he sees Jason again pointing out the trouble the driver got 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 the driver 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. The director and his crew were filming the whole thing and showing it to the news media, Marcus Duncan, and Jason's parents, dramatically vindicating Jason once and for all and causing Wolf's downfall.
  • 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, 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 that he's... oddly attached to.
  • Former Child Star: Poor Jaleel White just can't be taken seriously.
  • Girl Friday: Without Kaylee, Jason is dead in the water. Seriously, he can't pull off anything without her.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 what pretty much 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.
  • Humiliation Conga: What Marty goes through throughout 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.
  • 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!"
  • In a World...: Parodied in the (in-universe) Big Fat Liar movie trailer.
  • Ironic Echo: "12 camera angles with birds flying around..."
  • Jerkass: Marty Wolf should be a seven-letter word.
  • 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.
    • 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!
  • Kitsch Collection: The secretary's tacky stuffed dog collection.
  • Large Ham: Paul Giamatti really enjoyed himself making this movie.
  • Late for School: The opening, showcasing Jason Shepherd's casual use of lies for anything from saying he had breakfast to My Dog Ate My Homework.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Contrary to expectation, there's no romantic relationship developed between Jason and Kaylee.
  • 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 directors in the movie but he's pretty much alienated anyone close to him which ends up biting him in the rear.
  • Massive Multiplayer Scam: Emphasis on "Massive." As in at least a dozen people minimum, and maybe hundreds, all of them banding together under the banner of hating Marty Wolf that much.
  • Mean Boss: Marty Wolf takes this to a whole new level.
  • 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 mince meat, and I don't even know what mince meat 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.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Wolf is such Jerkass, that his assistant Monty and pretty much every one of his employees plot his downfall with Jason.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Obsolete Mentor: Wolf treats Vince the stunt coordinator like this when he's still perfectly qualified, calling him names like "Gramps" and "Methuselah."
  • Oh, Crap!: Marty reduced to being a clown says this in the ending of the movie when he meets the same wrestler whose car he wrecked and insulted earlier.
  • 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 on the film, but rather are two "dudes" tearing apart someone who wronged one of them.
  • ''Psycho'' Strings: Heard when Wolf realizes his skin and hair were dyed blue and orange, respectively.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Like any director 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.
  • 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 it which happens on the background of the main plot and Jason disrupts at various moments to try to strong-arm Marty into confessing.
  • 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? Director 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.
  • 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, Whittaker 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?
  • Unsportsmanlike Gloating: Oh boy. And this backfires against Marty in just five seconds later.
    Marty: Yeah, I stole your story, whoop-de-doodle-do! You happy now? I STOLE JASON SHEPARD'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-never-ever-ever-ever-ever-infinity tell the truth!
  • 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. After all, who's going to believe Jason's father over a famous Hollywood producer?
  • Villainous Breakdown: Marty does not take kindly for being revealed that the fraud that he is.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Jason seems noticeably more interested in proving his honesty to his father than to his mother.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Pretending the dog-lover secretary's car is ''parked on a dog's tail''