Jakob the Liar Movie Poster Image

Jakob the Liar



Anemic Holocaust tale may stir kids' interest.
  • Review Date: September 20, 2005
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1999
  • Running Time: 120 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Jakob lies repeatedly, but only to buoy hopes.


Beatings, shootings, torture, hung bodies, and psychological cruelty under Nazi regime.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that kids will see hung bodies, beatings, shootings, torture, and psychological cruelty under the Nazi regime. The main character, Jakob lies repeatedly in an attempt to buoy hopes in a Jewish ghetto during World War II.

Parents say

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What's the story?

Imprisoned within a Jewish ghetto in Nazi-occupied Poland, Jakob Heym (Robin Williams) overhears on a German radio the heartening news of Russian army advances. By sharing this forbidden information with a select few, he not only risks his own life, but the life of young Lina (Hannah Taylor-Gordon), who he's secretly harboring in his attic. Rumors begin circulating that Jakob has a radio of his own. Suddenly he's treated with respect. The community clings to him for hope and for news. Because they won't believe the truth, he begins feeding his desperate companions lies about allied advances against the Germans. Hope breeds bravery and talk of an uprising, and Jakob is elected to lead the resistance against their captors.

Is it any good?


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.

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.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about war and prejudice. Families may also want to discuss lying and the spreading of false hopes. Was it okay for Jakob to lie for good purposes? How can lies, even when meant to make people feel better, still harm?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:September 24, 1999
DVD release date:December 26, 2001
Cast:Alan Arkin, Hannah Taylor-Gordon, Robin Williams
Studio:Columbia Tristar
Run time:120 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:violene and disturbing images

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Kid, 12 years old December 2, 2009

i agree witht the other two reviews!

i agree with the other reviewes! the movie had lots of scary images and it was very hard for me to understand.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Great messages
Kid, 12 years old July 8, 2010

Has some scary images along with confusing story plot.

i loved ths movie but some of it i just didnt get and one scene of the movie was frightining and really disturbing. Holocaust vilonce at this strong of a level is not for kids 11 or under.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Great messages
Kid, 12 years old November 26, 2009

An ok movie with lots of frightening images

The movie was ok but a little hard for me to understand. The movie also included a lot of frightening images of dead people being hung, bleeding surverly, and being shot. I think only kids 12 or 13 will atleast somewhat understand the movie. Any kid below that age will find themeselfs scared and confused.
What other families should know
Too much violence


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