‘Man on the Moon’ (1999)



Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Weird, but Accurate

Biopics are a weird topic for me, as I really can’t stand them most of the time. Most of the main ones out there I haven’t seen either, they just aren’t my forte. Among the long list of biopics that I have not seen is a Jim Carrey film called “Man on the Moon“. Now, Jim Carrey is one of my favorite actors, so in theory this should help out the dilemma I often face with these films. Did it? Well, yeah…and no.

Man on the Moon” has Carrey playing Andy Kaufman, a famous comedian of the 70’s and 80’s before he tragically died of lung cancer in 1984 at the age of 35. Kaufman was a very weird comedian that strived off of making himself laugh more than the audience. The audience could laugh or couldn’t laugh, but if he could make himself laugh, that was when he decided he was a winner. He was very good at pranking people, too good. People believed his acts that came off as offensive, and it came to a point where Andy was a pathological liar, and no one would believe him when he told the truth. It was a classic, and very real portrayal of the boy who cried wolf. He would call himself a champion if he got hate mail.

He became famous from his “foreigner” and “Tony Clifton” act, which sent him straight to showbiz, appearing in the ABC sitcom “Taxi” and having shows that exploded all around the country. Everyone wanted him to do those classic acts, but he began stressing out because he wanted to do his own original material, but when he tried to be himself, he was deemed unfunny.

If you think about it, we often hate producers for molding a movie or TV show into something completely separate than the original idea, and you kind of feel that with how these people forced Kaufman to stay caged in his little character for so long, not allowing him to do what he wanted to. At the same time, they knew what they were doing in order to make the audience come back, to love this guy, even if it wasn’t for the right reasons. I have read early versions of epic movie scripts that were terrible before they went through rewrites. Producers do serve a purpose, but I still think they have miles to go before everyone is equally happy.

The reason why I hate biopics is simple, because I also hate most true stories, real life is not like the movies. It follows a very different structure than I like, I like movies with a solid plot, a point, a goal to make, and going through obstacles to get to that point. Regular movies have the characters with the goal, that’s great. Biopics are more along the lines of filmmakers having the goal to get a certain message that isn’t as clear to the audience. This movie had no goal, Kaufman wasn’t trying to do anything more than be himself, but no one could understand that about him. That’s great, and it’s actually super important, but you get that he is an off-beat guy in the first few minutes, you don’t need two hours of the same thing. The rest was just to show what the man went through. Okay, and all of that is fine if that is what you like….I don’t like that…at all.  (Notice I tried to keep my opinion on that out of my rating above.)

Another part that I didn’t like, and this is very opinionated. I have no idea who Andy Kaufman is, I heard the name, but other than that…nothing. The man was famous and lived and died before I was born. I didn’t have the opportunity to get to know what kind of a guy or what kind of humor he did. So this had no connection with me at all, if you know who he is, check it out because Jim Carrey’s impersonation is incredibly spot on.

No, I never knew Kaufman, but after watching this flick, I did a little research into Kaufman. He was a TV personality, so there was plenty of video clips to find of Kaufman that were redone in the film, like an episode of “Saturday Night Live” and “Late Night” with David Letterman. What’s more? David Letterman and Lorne Michaels played themselves, which had to be weird for them, as it had to recall some strange memories with Kaufman. I watched some of these clips, and yes, Carrey did a remarkable job portraying the prankster. There is no words to properly convey this to you. Jim Carrey was playing a comedian, but his acting was amazing, and one of his strongest performances ever.

There were some things to this film that just weren’t for me, but I’m not going to lie and say the movie wasn’t well done, because in all honesty, it was done very well, very well for people who know who Andy Kaufman was. Fans will be able to pick up where they have seen Kaufman before on TV, and see how well Carrey did as an actor. Everyone else will kind of have to use their imagination. I don’t think anyone would disagree that Jim Carrey was the perfect actor for this role.

My suggestion is that…if you knew who Andy Kaufman was, maybe even were a fan, check the movie out, it pays tribute to the man pretty well.

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