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Jakob the Liar (1999)

tomatometer

29

Average Rating: 4.7/10
Reviews Counted: 72
Fresh: 21 | Rotten: 51

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

26

Average Rating: 4.6/10
Critic Reviews: 23
Fresh: 6 | Rotten: 17

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

audience

63

liked it
Average Rating: 3.2/5
User Ratings: 17,618

My Rating

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

PG-13,

Drama, Comedy

Peter Kassovitz, Didier Decoin, Ron Hutchinson

Mar 21, 2000

TriStar Pictures - Official Site External Icon

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All Critics (89) | Top Critics (26) | Fresh (21) | Rotten (51) | DVD (11)

Seems forced, calculating, self-conscious.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Detroit News
Detroit News
Top Critic IconTop Critic

I never lost awareness that I was watching actors speaking lines, not real people.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
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Jakob the Liar deserves a place alongside Life Is Beautiful and, yes, even Schindler's List.

January 1, 2000 | Comments (2)
Boston Globe
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A markedly better picture than Roberto Benigni's far more sentimental Oscar collector.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Variety
Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Jakob the Liar wants the freedom of the Benigni film but doesn't want to pay the dues.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: At the Movies
At the Movies
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Peter Kassovitz establishes an effectively grim, cramped yet barren setting, making respectful use of locations in Poland and Budapest.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Entertainment Weekly
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic IconTop Critic

So sternly manipulative that it becomes a chore to watch.

January 3, 2009 Full Review Source: TheMovieReport.com
TheMovieReport.com

Jakob the Liar isn't nearly as intolerable as you might expect of a Holocaust fable starring Robin Williams.

September 24, 2007 Full Review Source: eFilmCritic.com
eFilmCritic.com

A sober drama about hope as a postive spiritual force.

March 4, 2002 Full Review Source: Spirituality and Practice
Spirituality and Practice

Jakob the Liar ends up as a film that is tirelessly trying to tell us something, but never quite gets to the point while making the audience work too hard for too little a payoff.

January 1, 2000 Full Review
Citadel Broadcasting

Collapses in a heavy-breathing marriage of irony and unearned sentiment.

January 1, 2000 Full Review
Sacramento News & Review

The story is so underdeveloped that it's almost inert.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Internet Reviews
Internet Reviews

Jakob the Liar is too closed off to provide sufficient air for its deprecating humor (jokes, such as they are, fall flat), and the relentless struggle by the hapless people to survive is not adequately transmitted.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Compuserve
Compuserve

Unsatisfying!

January 1, 2000
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Even though director Peter Kassovitz tries hard to reproduce the soul-chilling despair of the ghetto, truth eludes Jakob The Liar.

January 1, 2000
Winnipeg Sun

Plays dangerously close to Hogan's Heroes goes to Auschwitz.

January 1, 2000
Contra Costa Times

The movie does absolutely no justice to its subject matter.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Matinee Magazine
Matinee Magazine

Awkward!

January 1, 2000
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Williams' self-conscious and rather bland performance never comes close to bringing his character to life.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Williams appears to be riffing for another 'Comic Relief' benefit.

January 1, 2000
MSNBC

Audience Reviews for Jakob the Liar

I haven't seen Frank Beyer's original so I can't really comment on this film as a remake but I can probably take a educated guess at it's comparisons. I wont though as that is a bad habit and one should stay open-minded, that said, I will defend the fact that this is not a comedy, Robin Williams and the rest of the cast are not 'milking the Holocaust for laughs' and I don't think Roberto Benigni's was either in Life Is Beautiful. It is however, a very average film about a delicate subject that deserves better.
August 9, 2010
SirPant

Super Reviewer

[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][/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]
February 23, 2006
boxman
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.
May 15, 2010
Naughtia
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.
July 13, 2010
Lemure

Super Reviewer

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Foreign Titles

  • Jakob the Liar (1999) (DE)
  • Jakob the Liar (1999) (CA)
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