"Hello, my name is Ross and this is my review."
Man on the Moon
Review by Ross Anthony

Don't arrive late, the five minute introduction is marvelously unique and quintessentially Kaufman. The entertaining film that follows, though documentary in nature ... "is not an historical biography and it's not always faithful to the facts," director Milos Forman admits (in the press notes) "It is, however, always faithful to the spirit of the facts."

Jim Carrey portrays the eccentric, controversial comic Andy Kaufman (1949-1984) who charmed audiences with his Latka character on the 1970's sitcom "Taxi," shocked millions with his disruptive antics on the live-taped "Fridays," baffled all of us with his incitingly sexist challenges to wrestle women on TV, and finally left us in 1984 wondering if his death was just another prank. Robin Williams once referred to Kaufman as the "kamikaze of comedians" because he didn't care if he bombed.

Carrey, once known as the "man with the rubber face" for his ability to actually look like the celebrities he imitated, can't shake off the fame surrounding his own. That said, Carrey is absolutely rock solid conveying the Andy Kaufman persona in voice and eye movement. He never falters. Even though he looks like Jim Carrey, this is not a Jim Carrey movie. Critics of Carrey's acting ability won't be able to ignore this disciplined performance.

Danny DeVito (responsible for the film's conception and realization) leads us through the production while portraying George Shapiro (Andy's agent). In the "Taxi" sequences, only original cast members appear (though DeVito's Louie character is conveniently elsewhere). Especially with DeVito in a lead role along with wrestler Jerry Lawler's cameos (he does a fine job, by the way), this lends a warm, friendly, sentimental feel to the film for those of us who knew the "TV" Kaufman. It also serves to reassure us that the film's portrayal of this enigmatic comedian is authentic. Lastly, it appends to the memory of Andy, a sense of family and belated forgiveness for pulling our legs and yanking our chains.

Courtney Love's performance as Lynne Margulies (who was on the set virtually everyday) confirms her talent as an actress, making the transition from the rock world with more grace than, personally, I'd have expected.

The film sheds light on the mysteriously odd death of Andy Kaufman, but can't resist casting a shadow of a doubt on its audience during a slightly unnecessary last scene. Ultimately "Man on the Moon" is a strong film, unique and enlightening; even after the many Kaufman documentaries released in anticipation of it. As for those of you unfamiliar with Andy's work I'd be very curious to hear your reaction to this film (email@rossanthony.com).

"Thank you very much."

  • Man on the Moon. Copyright © 1999. Rated R.
  • Starring Jim Carrey, Danny DeVito, Courtney Love, Paul Giamatti and Jerry Lawler (as himself).
  • Directed by Milos Forman.
  • Written by Scott ALexander and Larry Karaszewski.
  • Produced by Danny DeVito, Michael Shamberg, and Stacey Sher at Universal/Mutual Film


Copyright © 1999. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit: RossAnthony.com

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:03:07 PDT