Man on the Moon (1999)

Despite the acclaim this Andy Kaufman biopic received at the time of its release, this is, at best, a mediocre, shallow greatest-hits compilation of Kaufman’s career. If you’re unaware of Kaufman’s comedic stylings like I was before watching this, you’ll find nothing of interest: Kaufman is consistently defined by how amazing other performers think he is, yet for the uninitiated it’s just Adam Sandler-level baby-voicing and “Police Academy”-style pratfalls for the sake of circus-freakshow entertainment. Additionally, the audience never really gets to learn much about Kaufman as a person: He’s a cypher defined by how brilliant others think he is versus how psychologically fractured they also think he is, and it feels like each scene goes through the same structure – Kaufman does something unusual, folks express concern, the audience laughs, so therefore he must be a comedic genius, wash rinse and repeat. Then there’s the problem of Jim Carrey’s shockingly superficial performance, which is primarily based on agitated eye movement and self-consciously muted dialogue delivery: There’s nothing to suggest passion in his performance, it’s a painfully mannered one that wears on more than it informs. A brief segment on the set of “Taxi” that reunites the show’s ensemble cast suggests a much cleverer movie, and Danny DeVito does strong work as Kaufman’s longtime agent, but those are about the only things the movie has going for it.

Rating: ★★ (out of 5)

One comment

  1. I remember Carrey mounting (a rather desperate and shameless) Oscar campaign (I believe he did manage to win a Golden Globe), but I always thought that he wasn’t all that good as Kaufman.

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