Deconstructing the Narrative – Liar, Liar (1997)

✔️ THE SEED ✔️

Definition: Something at the heart of the film that everything and everybody seems to revolve and orbit around; something every major character, not just the protagonist or antagonist, but everybody is able to provide perspective on. Often seen as both beneficial and problematic at the same time, depending on who you are.

Arguably, the seed of Liar, Liar is simply the theme of lying. More specifically, Fletcher’s apparently amazing ability to lie. It is helpful in his career to sport half truths and falsehoods, because he is a lawyer. That’s how you manipulate the system, but he does it so often that it is also negatively affecting his family life with his son. One can also come to the conclusion that it played a part in his divorce, which occured prior to the events of the film. It is this seed that eventually causes his son to make the magical wish.


Definition: A disturbance in the force; a call to action. The imbalance is either a subtle or not-so-subtle shift in the atmosphere that changes the status quo. In general, this is something that the protagonists specifically feel need to be resolved to return to the status quo.

The imbalance in Liar, Liar is clearly the magical wish that turns Fletcher into a man that hilariously cannot lie or even ask a question that he knows will result in a lie. This is particularly difficult because of his job as a defense lawyer, which he believes requires his ability to lie.


Definition: The literary protagonist serves two functions: to be the prime mover of plot and to resolve the imbalance/issue at hand.

The protagonist in Liar, Liar is obviously Fletcher, as he is the prime mover of plot and is working against his symptom so he can still manipulate the system without needing to lie. However, he has no plan of action on how to do that. Instead, he sees it as an obstacle for his main character arc.


Definition: The antagonist is essentially written specifically to be against the protagonist’s goal. The antagonist doesn’t need to be a person.

Arguably, the antagonist can either be seen as Max, the son, who unknowingly created the magical wish, OR the force of the symptom on its own. The reason why Max would be the antagonist is because even after he learns what happened, he actively goes against his father’s request to unwish the lie. I instead argue that Max is not the antagonist. Saying he is diametrically against his father’s goal wouldn’t be fully accurate. He serves as more of a speed bump, which makes him a literary contagonist, but hes not against his father. Instead, I see Max as the influence character who’s role is written to change his father’s world view. The real antagonist is the magical force itself.


Definition: Not always the protagonist, the main character is who the film focuses on the most, their role is to provide an emotional connection with the audience, so their prime role is just to provide the primary perspective. However, they are a stronger main character if they have a personal problem they are trying to solve separate from the main goal (if they are the protagonist), but it should be connected somehow.

Fletcher is the literary definition of a narrative hero, as he is both the protagonist and main character. The film clearly focuses on him a majority of the time, and I’m unsure if there’s even a single scene without him in it. His arc is about the legal case he is working on that he has to win without dependence on lies, as usual. His worldview that’s challenged is said dependence on lies.


Definition: The influence character must be something with a point-of-view, as that’s what it represents, a point-of-view. A world view that’s different than the main character, and their role is essentially to challenge the main character into seeing things their way. The main character’s resolve must either switch to the influence character’s way of thinking, or vice versa. Somebody HAS to change. If they don’t, they have communicated nothing. One more thing: there can be multiple influence characters.

The influence character in Liar, Liar is primarily Max, though his ex-wife also provides the same point of view. The idea is pretty simple. Their function is to influence Fletcher that his world view of “Lying is Good” is incorrect, and he must change before he loses them for good.


For a comedy, Liar, Liar’s narrative structure is incredibly solid. Everything about it makes sense and you can tell that they really thought about the story before they made the film. The only issue I found was when it comes to resolving the main conflict, Fletcher has no plan of action. In a sense, he is a “be-er”, which is somebody who adapts to their surroundings rather than do something about it. This allows for more humor without sacrificing any other important areas for the story to succeed, but in general, I prefer the more common “do-er”, which makes for a more satisfactory resolution when it comes around to that.

Narrative Score – 9/10

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