Troy Patterson
May 30, 2000 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Man on the Moon (Movie - 1999)

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R
runtime
118 minutes
performer
Jim Carrey, Courtney Love, Danny DeVito, Paul Giamatti, Jerry Lawler
director
Milos Forman
Producer
Danny DeVito
distributor
Universal
author
Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski
genre
Comedy

We gave it a C

Watching the Andy Kaufman biopic Man on the Moon on video — the movie shrunk to Kaufmanesque scale — I started to regard it as an organic tribute to its subject. Kaufman strove to jar, bewilder, and annoy his audiences, and director Milos Forman scores on each count. Guided by screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, Forman doesn’t examine Kaufman as an artist or explore him as a man: He genuflects to a prankster ordained the King of (Conceptual) Comedy for such ”subversive” work as caricaturing the vulgarity of lounge acts and constructing hoaxes to mock the artifice of pro wrestling.

Forman strings together a wisp of narrative from biographical details — Andy charms his agent, Andy hates his sitcom, Andy gets inspired while whoremongering — and decorates it with reconstituted stunts. For those who don’t cherish Kaufman’s nonsensical performance art (the ”Saturday Night Live” Mighty Mouse bit, the ”Taxi” dispatches…), the film’s greatest pleasure derives from the thrilling glee Jim Carrey takes in impersonating his hero, and even that joy is tainted. If ”Moon” is any indication, Kaufman came to be revered as the patron saint of goofballs because he achieved the puerile fantasy of using the audience to amuse himself.

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