Parents' Guide to

Jakob the Liar

By Kate Pavao, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Watered-down Holocaust tale may stir kids' interest.

Movie PG-13 1999 120 minutes
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Kids say (4):

Because director and co-writer Peter Kassovitz softens the reality of the Holocaust, the movie plays more like a Hogan's Heroes episode than the serious drama it alleges to be. But what may be less than satisfying for adults can be a good stepping stone for children taking an interest in the subject. The Nazis aren't terribly menacing, the scenes of violence and psychological torture are relatively mild, and the themes of perseverance and selflessness are strong.

Following closely after the success of Roberto Benigni's Life Is Beautiful, this sentimental, watered-down tale (adapted from Jurek Becker's 1969 book) of one man's wartime attempt to spread hope fell through the cracks, despite star Robin Williams' box office magnetism. In the right movie, with his shtick and his histrionics seriously curtailed, Robin Williams can be a very capable actor. His characters in Good Will Hunting and Dead Poets Society ably communicated both humor and emotional depth. But in JAKOB THE LIAR he delivers a Moscow on the Hudson performance, putting on an accent and a costume and asking audiences to forget his reputation for manic comedy even though scenes are filled with light humor. As a result, taking Williams seriously as a ghettoized Jew is nearly impossible.

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