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Man On The Moon

06 Apr 2002

Jim Carrey as Andy Kaufman.
PHOTO: Universal Studios

I don't remember where I first head it, but when "Man on The Moon" came out, there was all sorts of Oscar TM buzz about it -- that this would be Jim Carrey's shot at an award for his "brilliant" performance, and the like. And since that's what the film's distributors seem keen on talking about, let's open with that.

While Carrey does a very good job at impersonating Andy Kaufman, he should not receive an Oscar TM nomination. That doesn't mean he's not going to get one, though, but I think the reason to say "no" is that the character he's playing has not a lot of range. That's not Carrey's fault -- if we're to believe the movie, that's just how Kaufman was. By the end of the film, we as an audience do not have an understanding of what the "real" Andy Kaufman was like, and the film is up front enough to say so itself. There's a scene with Kaufman and his girlfriend where he laments that if only his audience could get to know the real him, they'd like him better. She reminds him that there is no real him. "Oh yeah," he replies.

The film itself is entertaining, as far as it goes. We follow Kaufman's career from the dreadful beginnings, to his role at Latka on "Taxi", to his days wrestling women. And then the film ends and you go home. OK?

I was surprised at how many people went home prematurely. Was it the subject matter? Kaufman's performance pieces are not everyone's cup of tea, but for so many (about 10, rough guess, around here, no one ever leaves early), I have to wonder what was so offensive. Perhaps they were expecting a best-of reel from "Taxi" or his appearances on Saturday Night Live. Or maybe they were unprepared to do the required work to understand the joke, because Kaufman never spoon fed his audience. Perhaps that's why he hated doing a TV series so much.

I do encourage people to see the film though, because I think it's a story well told, and well played. You can ask for a lot more than that, but that will do.

Related Sites

Man On The Moon (Official site)
Man On the Moon (IMDB)
Saturday Night Live (Check out the video clip in the Seasons 01-02 section, February 21, 1976)