Jakob the Liar (1999) - Rotten Tomatoes

Jakob the Liar (1999)



Critic Consensus: Any real story is buried by awkward performances and contrived situations.

Movie Info

This remake of the 1975 German film Jakob der Lügner stars Robin Williams in a dramatic role as a man who uses his active imagination to bring a ray of hope where hope was all but unknown. Jakob Heym (Robin Williams) is the owner of a small café during the Nazi occupation of Poland; he has little money and is struggling to keep body and soul alive in the shadow of the Third Reich. One day, he overhears a radio broadcast, forbidden to Polish ears, that reports a major victory for Russian troops over the German army. Enthusiastic about this good news, Jakob begins spreading word of the Russian army's progress through the Polish ghetto. He notices that the story gives people hope and makes it easier for them to get through the day. So Jakob begins inventing stories and passing them along, creating fictional war reports that suggest that the occupation may soon be ending. However, when the occupation troops get wind of these stories, they become convinced that someone has communications equipment stashed away somewhere, and they're determined to find both the radio and its operator at all costs. Jakob the Liar was the first American feature for director Peter Kassovitz; the supporting cast includes Armin Mueller-Stahl, Alan Arkin, Bob Balaban, and Liev Schreiber.more
Rating: PG-13 (for violence and disturbing images)
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Directed By:
Written By: Peter Kassovitz, Didier Decoin
In Theaters:
On DVD: Mar 21, 2000
TriStar Pictures - Official Site


Robin Williams
as Jakob Heym
Alan Arkin
as Frankfurter
Bob Balaban
as Kowalsky
Mark Margolis
as Fajngold
Gregg Bello
as Blumenthal
Eva Igo
as Lina's Mother
István Bálint
as Lina's Father
Adam Rajhona
as The Whistler
Antal Leisen
as Peg-leg
Jan Becker
as Young German
Grazyna Barszczewska
as Mrs. Frankfurter
Judit Sagi
as Mrs. Avron
Ilona Psota
as Grandmother
Agi Margitai
as Miss Esther
Ivan Darvas
as Hardtloff
Miroslaw Zbrojewicz
as SS Officer 1
Jozef Mika
as Soldier
Gyorgy Szkladanyi
as SS Officer 2
Zofia Saretok
as Neighbor
Michael Mehlmann
as Escaping Man
Mirtill Micheller
as Lady Singer
Orsolya Pflum
as Lady Singer
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Jakob the Liar

Critic Reviews for Jakob the Liar

All Critics (89) | Top Critics (26)

Jakob the Liar is a trial of cliche, strained optimism, and dire quasi-comedy.

January 1, 2000
Mr. Showbiz
Top Critic

Jakob the Liar is so forced that only the interest of a star of Williams' magnitude could have gotten it made.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

It's jolting that such a potentially life-affirming movie could be so lifeless.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Dallas Morning News
Top Critic

Jakob the Liar plays like a Robin Williams concentration-camp comedy that was intended to cash in on the success of Roberto Benigni's Life Is Beautiful.

January 1, 2000
Seattle Times
Top Critic

Jakob the Liar aspires to be a poignant parable about the power of hope but instead uses one of humanity's greatest tragedies for trite melodrama.

January 1, 2000
Miami Herald
Top Critic

The film leans from the comedic to the near-mawkish.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Houston Chronicle
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Jakob the Liar


[font=Arial][color=darkred]In the fickle entertainment industry of celluloid, nothing can be as detremental to a film's success as timimg. And the latest Robin William's weepy not only suffers from poor timing, it cuts its own throat with the careless mistake. Coming hot on the heels of another World War II comedy/drama known affectionately as 'Life is Beautiful' would have proved much better if the foriegn film had stayed in the art house screens and quickly come and gone. Instead Roberto Benigni's touching film made its way to big screens, broke the record for best receits of a foriegn film in America, and went on to steal all of the nation's hearts and pick up three Oscar statuettes for the mantle. The Hollywood version of Benigni's Holocaust fable proves what happens when people take something that was a miracle it worked once before, and so well, and try catching lightening in a bottle again.[/color][/font]

[font=Arial][color=darkred]'Jakob the Liar' is never truly any form of comedy, unless you thought 'Hogans Heroes' was in dire need of a big screen adaption because all the other Holocaust movies did not accurately portray the wackiness that was Nazi Germany. Most of the jokes are so grim and morbid that you'll be gritting teeth more than smiling.[/color][/font]

[font=Arial][color=darkred]The story can be very ham-fisted and forceful at times, interesting considering there's not much driving any story. and the end is scene-for-scene exact with Benigni's flick. Most of the performances are marginable, with many appearing to be weary that they're even in the movie. The story's addition of a little girl that William's takes under his wing for guidance is more of a distracting subplot taking attention away from the common thread of one man giving hope to the hopeless. Minus one charming scene with William's improvising a radio broadcast with kitchen utensils she's mainly a pointless addition.[/color][/font]

[font=Arial][color=darkred]The splinter in the paw of this movie is Robin Williams himself. Anyone out there remember when he used to do comedy, not schmaltzy laiden bittersweet tug-from-the-heart-strings mellodrama? I didn't think so. Williams is more damaging a presence then anything else. Though his mugging is restrained for the most part, the schmaltzy sentimentality burns thin rather quickly. The movie tries to manipulate you into feeling for it and letting the floodgates loose with those tear ducts, but it's so clear it's not going to make you feel but manipulate that you can very easily see the strings as they're being pulled.[/color][/font]
[font=Arial][color=#8b0000]'Jakob the Liar' does have a good director at its helm to show the Holocaust as the grim reality it was and not suger-coat anything. A great deal of gratitude should go to the director for at least partially saving 'Jakob' from being worse than it could be. Though I'm of the mind that I'm positive audiences will love it and most likely bash me, I just want everyone to know that Roberto Benigni did it earlier and better and I'd stress seeing that movie instead. Because 'Jakob the Liar' can't hold a candle to 'Life is Beautiful'.[/color][/font]

[font=Arial][color=darkred]Nate's Grade: C [/color][/font]

Nate Z.
Nate Zoebl

Super Reviewer


I loved this movie. Robin Williams and Liev Schreiber were outstanding. This movie is set during WW2 in Warsaw where Nazis have taken control of a community of Jews. Jakob is one of the jews and somehow the word gets out that he owns a radio which according to Nazis is not allowed. Jakob tells his fellow citizens news that he claims that he has heard on the radio and this keeps the hopes up in the community, hopes that the war will soon have an end. This truly is a touching story and it is so well played by these talented actors.

Naughtia Nahazhina

Super Reviewer

I admire Robin Williams as an actor but I have no time for "holocaust" movies. To me they are nothing more than awards bait. I don't believe a single one has ever truly portrayed what actually went on, and a diet version of such events is criminal. This film tries to show the harshness but the tone is too light and nothing happens that you don't expect.

Marcus Woolcott

Super Reviewer

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