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By Michael Dequina | February 9, 2002

I would be a “big fat liar” (yeah, yeah–bad play on words) if I didn’t say that this film wasn’t made for the likes of me. With Frankie Muniz of “Malcolm in the Middle” fame and Nickelodeon starlet Amanda Bynes heading the cast and the crew responsible Nick’s “All That” (and related shows) behind the camera, there’s no doubt that I’m at least a full decade removed from the film’s target demographic.
That ‘tween audience will very likely eat up this comedy, where perpetually lying student Jason Shepherd (Muniz) looks to even the score with ruthless Hollywood producer Marty Wolf (Paul Giamatti, doing a variation on his “Pig Vomit” role in “Private Parts”), who stole his English paper and is turning it into his next blockbuster movie. Needless to say the film is more or less a fantasy, even before Jason, with the help of his best friend Kaylee (Bynes), starts pulling elaborate pranks on the egomaniacal Marty.
And indeed how elaborate and downright preposterous Jason’s scheming is–though given the age of the audience for whom the film was made, such broadness in execution is to be expected. More surprising and sickening is how Universal uses the film to blatantly plug video catalog titles such as “The Mummy” and “Back to the Future”; the upcoming “E.T.” reissue; and, above all, their Hollywood theme park. (Pundits who complain about embedded advertising in children’s entertainment should look no further for support for their argument.) Sadly, such shameless huckstering is all that will capture much of the adult viewers’ attention. Muniz and Bynes are likable if clearly not exerting themselves here, and as said earlier, the over-the-top comedy is pitched decidedly low (in age range). Once again, it’s another so-called “family film” that will only have appeal to a certain segment of the household unit.

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