Robin Williams has established himself as one of the most bankable actors to date. His history in film covers a wide spectrum of outrageous comedy and some downright serious drama. After an Academy Award nomination for his role in Dead Poet’s Society, it seems he has found his niche in some sort of sappy genre. With such recent films as Patch Adams, What Dreams May Come, and Good Will Hunting, he has fallen into a stereotypical male dramatic lead. His most recent release, Jakob The Liar, follows this same pattern and is full of the same old sentimental humor, which I prefer to call crap.
Set in 1944 Poland, Jakob The Liar is a light-hearted look at the Jewish Ghetto during the Nazi occupancy. Williams plays Jakob, the owner of a shut down pancake house who accidentally overhears a news bulletin broadcasting Soviet military advances against the Germans. By taking this news to the other inhabitants, he is able to boost morale, offering a sense of hope. Sound like an uplifting film about faith and inspiration? Surprise, it’s not. In fact, this film is so empty it’s hard to come out feeling anything except regret over wasting the one hundred and fourteen minutes of time that this distasteful piece of so-called art took.
The delicate subject matter is portrayed with farcical humor. I don’t know about you, but I can’t find much to laugh about when I think of the Holocaust. Last year, Life is Beautiful won critical acclaim for its presentation of the same topic. Lacking the same type of thoughtfulness, Jakob The Liar is disturbing in that it doesn’t offer anything positive. Sure, Jakob is trying to create hope by lying about the news broadcasts, but his outlandish stories of awaiting jazz bands are a little much, even for the most gullible person.
The supporting cast doesn’t offer anything better. Alan Arkin as Frankfurter is out of his element, sounding more like a mobster, and Liev Schreiber as Mischa is so irritating that there is no way in hell someone with his type of personality could have survived the Nazis that long. Bob Balaban is just as bad as the wide-eyed Kowalski, and Nina Siemasko’s talents are put to waste on a whiney Rosa.
Not sure if it should be a comedy or drama, Jakob The Liar is comprised of unemotional performances and inane dialogue. Robin Williams turns on the waterworks with his all too familiar soft-spoken tone and the typical unfeeling jokes. After so many tears, it’s hard to believe in his character’s sincerity. When you see bumbling idiots running into each other and trying to be funny one minute, and then a dead body hanging from a ceiling the next, it’s hard to figure out what to feel. My suggestion for the Robin Williams fan is to watch one of his older movies; one from a time when he was less obsessed with warming our hearts.
+ Ashley Adams