Yes, Jim Carrey's impersonation of late comedian Andy Kaufman is remarkable. But it never transcends impersonation to become a full-fleshed performance, and Milos Forman's film is a series of incredible simulations that never quite cohere into a movie.
Kaufman fans may get a nostalgic kick out of the faithful recreations of his confrontational pranks and put-ons, but there's not much in the way of insight into what made Kaufman tick, which is generally acknowledged as a flaw in biopics. Following a perfunctory prologue featuring little Andy
performing for his younger sister, the movie fast-forwards to the '70s, where Kaufman is doing a similar act, baffling customers who don't get the joke in a guy badgering them to sing along with children's songs. But he's spotted by manager George Shapiro (Danny DeVito, Kaufman's Taxi
co-star); "You're insane," declares Shapiro, "but you just might be a genius!" Ouch... even if you don't know that Kaufman met Shapiro through family connections, that's a wince-inducer. Then come the career peaks and valleys: Kaufman invents the foreign man who mangles jokes and
impersonations before doing a spot-on Elvis; lip-syncs the Mighty Mouse theme; becomes Taxi's breakout star; sabotages his TV career by acting up on SNL and its short-lived competitor Fridays; denies that he's obnoxious lounge singer "Tony Clifton;" reinvents himself as
an odious professional wrestler who specializes in grappling with women; performs at Carnegie Hall; gets cancer. The cancer turns out not to be his latest stunt, though even today there are people who aren't entirely convinced it wasn't a hoax. It could be argued that Kaufman channeled his
life into his personas, which he frequently kept up offstage, but that's a specious argument. Staging "Kaufman-mania" on the big screen is what it is; pretending there really was no one behind the curtain is a copout.
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- Released: 1999
- Rating: R
- Review: Yes, Jim Carrey's impersonation of late comedian Andy Kaufman is remarkable. But it never transcends impersonation to become a full-fleshed performance, and Milos Forman's film is a series of incredible simulations that never quite cohere into a movie. Ka… (more)