When Human Nature Calls, Hang Up

FOR BETTER AND WORSE, Tom Shadyac's Liar Liar is the most conventional movie Jim Carrey has ever made: "The Cable Guy" weirded people right out of theaters, so now he's making nice. Sort of. Carrey plays a dirt-bag lawyer named Fletcher Reede. Reede's young son (Justin Cooper) is so sick of being fibbed to that he makes a birthday wish that magically comes true: Dad can't lie for an entire day. Fletcher's trying to win a bogus case and sleep his way up the corporate ladder. What's a lawyer to do?

"Liar" has a clunky first act, and two actresses get handed the same stereotype: Amanda Donohoe plays Boss Slut, and Jennifer Tilly plays Client Slut. (Fletcher's ex, not a slut, is played warmly by Maura Tierney.) But once Fletcher starts telling the truth against his will, the movie delivers some perfect laughs. Fletcher maniacally abuses his firm's partners and literally beats himself up in a john. For 80 minutes, this is the best volcano movie of the year.

But Carrey, a true subversive, shouldn't be wasting his time rattling the bars of ordinary, Michael Keaton-y scripts like this one. When Fletcher inevitably becomes caring and chants "I love my son," you cringe. Would Ace Ventura deliver lines like these? Sure-from his famous talking backside.