Man On The Moon

a review by Chris McCaleb


This movie takes the tack that it wants to be just like one of Andy Kaufman's acts - it wants to give no answers, it wants to be enigmatic, it wants to make people uncertain. The film wants to preserve intact all the questions that Kaufman's life and work created, to be true to Andy. I can see where that may have sounded GREAT on paper. But it's ultimately an unfortunate choice for a dramatic film.


I have no doubt that Andy Kaufman would have liked this movie. It reveals nothing more about him than HE ever did. I went into the film expecting a sprawling biopic, of the sort that Milos Forman did with his last movie, the great The People vs. Larry Flynt. But the film reveals nothing about Kaufman that I did not already know. I learned more about Andy Kaufman - and was more entertained by - the numerous specials on E! than I did Man On The Moon. This movie is no Larry Flynt.


Even in the advance interviews for the movie, Devito, Forman and Carrey had obviously agreed that they would continue to speak about "Tony Clifton" as if he were a real person, instead of a persona that Kaufman created and sometimes portrayed. Again, I can see where that may have seemed like a great idea at the outset. But is that really the most interesting thing you can do with the story of Andy Kaufman? I am much more interested in what he was thinking when he created the Clifton character - and the mechanics of portraying him - rather than their lame attempts to perpetuate the myth.


The movie takes great pains in restaging the events from Kaufman's career that we're so familiar with. But what is the value of doing that, if no questions are raised and answered? Isn't it just for the novelty value? It's GREAT to see most of the Taxi cast reunited, but if they are barely allowed to speak (casting Christopher Lloyd in a film and give him NO LINES is a crime), what is the point? And Devito is excellent as manager George Shapiro, but it was a bizarre casting choice considering the part Devito played in Kaufman's life in reality.


The most interesting question about Kaufman is - what was he THINKING? What led him to want to do bizarre acts that made him appear alternately endearing and obnoxious? Without attempting to pose an answer, by just restaging familiar scenes, Forman makes Kaufman into a person that was just... obnoxious. The film honestly takes the tack that, as Courtney Love says in the film, there WAS no real Kaufman.


Before you Carrey-haters start cracking the champagne open, though, let me tell you that HE was very good. He was the best part of this film. The movie only asked him to do an impression of Kaufman, not a very layered performance - but it was an EXTREMELY technically proficient impression. He's been working very hard lately on getting out of the Ace Ventura shell, although he has no need to apologize for it. He should be given credit, although he could stand to let up on his personal quest for Oscardom.


I think you should See this film when it shows on cable.








1999 Absurd Pamphlet Press