Australian Council on Children and the Media

Big Fat Liar

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Short takes

Under 5s may be bored

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Big Fat Liar
  • a review of Big Fat Liar completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 17 August 2002.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 5 Children under 5 may be bored
Children under 15 This film is suitable for all ages as there is nothing scary in it, no sex and little course language.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Big Fat Liar
Classification: G
Consumer advice lines: None
Length 88 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Jason Shepherd is an over confident fourteen year old and a compulsive liar. He makes up fantastic stories in order to get himself out of trouble with his parents and teacher. He is given a deadline to hand up a 1000 word assignment or face summer school. His father says this should be no problem for him as he is so good at creating stories. After much deliberation, Jason writes ‘Big Fat Liar’ but while delivering it to school on his sister’s bike (because his skateboard had previously been taken by the school bullies) he is knocked over by a limo. He convinces the owner of the limo to drive him to school as his bike is now wrecked. The owner turns out to be Marty Wolf, a big Hollywood movie director with an over-inflated ego and a bigger liar than Jason. Jason inadvertently leaves his assignment in the limo and ends up having to go to summer school.

One day, to relieve the boredom, he takes his friend Kaylee to the movies where he sees a preview of a new movie entitled Big Fat Liar. Jason recognises this as his own work and sets out with Kaylee to Hollywood to confront Marty Wolf. Jason wants Marty to acknowledge that Big Fat Liar is his creation but of course Marty won’t admit to it. What ensues is a funny, if far fetched, plot by Jason to make Marty admit the truth. Jason’s tactics are more of a mind game designed to frustrate and embarrass Marty and sabotage his career. Along the way he gains many supporters in people that Marty has humiliated and cast off as the “nastiest director in Hollywood”. Jason also learns that the “truth is not overrated”.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is little violence in this film but there are a few scenes which could cause concern such as:

  • at the start of the film Jason is set upon by bullies, is verbally harassed and has his skateboard stolen.
  • Jason is hit by the car, not actually seen, but his bike is wrecked.

There is also cartoon type violence, set in a comic context, when Marty is being hounded by Jason such as:

  • Marty is being driven at high speed through a desert in the opposite direction of where he needs to go and he decides to jump out of the car, landing heavily and rolling on the ground
  • Marty is washed down a ‘river’ of water
  • Jason sabotages Marty’s car by rewiring all the electronics causing much mayhem and almost an accident.

Also Marty dishes out verbal abuse to everyone with whom he comes into contact.

There is really nothing scary in this film. The only scene that could possibly disturb some children is a scene at the end in which Jason and Marty are in their final confrontation on the top of a tall building. When Marty is defeated, Jason decides to copy a stunt he had previously watched, and jumps off the top of the building. For a moment there, Jason is shown falling through the air but he lands safely on a huge rubber mat. He apparently does it just for the thrill.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

Other than the above-mentioned scenes there is nothing that would disturb children under 5.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Other than the above-mentioned scenes there is nothing that would disturb children under 8.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

None of concern.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

None of concern.

Sexual references

The movie has very little of any of these elements.

Coarse language

There is very little coarse language.

  • On a couple of occasions Marty yells ‘Oh my God’
  • Marty yells ‘Up your arse Grandma’ at a female driver.

In a nutshell

The take home message from this movie is that ‘the truth is not overrated’. It is also that the Davids can defeat the Goliaths if they use their wits and cunning rather than rely on physical strength.

Some values that parents may wish to encourage include:

  • it is better to tell the truth
  • being hurtful to others makes enemies

Some values that parents may wish to discourage include:

  • lying to the teacher makes you look ‘cool’ in front of your peers
  • leaving home without permission or knowledge of parents
  • Jason and Kaylee both lied to and deceived their parents and, in Kaylee’s case, her grandmother, to get to Hollywood and achieve their ends.
  • Jason and Kaylee stay in the props department at Universal Studios and help themselves to property and equipment they need.

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