Man on the Moon
"It's Not so
First, I apologize for not having a new movie to review this
week. But, those fuckers in Hollywood decided not to give us
anything new here in Denver. I guess they think we all got so
much to do that we won't have time for a movie. Well, Hollywood
assholes, some of us are lonely and pathetic and we need your
movies to keep us from becoming shut-ins who spend all our time
looking for free pornography on the Internet. As a result, I
caught up on one of last week's releases.
If you like impersonators or live in a small town that doesn't
have a good video store, "Man on the Moon" is your
cup of tea. Jim Carrey is Jim Carrey as Andy Kaufman. It's an
admirable impression, but it's always just Jim Carrey, not the
Andy Kaufman was a "performance artist" who became
famous in the late 70s and early 80s for his oddball humor and
weird onstage schtick. "Man on the Moon" follows his
life from his weirdo childhood to his weirdo adulthood. It loosely
sketches his path as a noncomformist from bedroom performer to
the star of "Taxi," and then spends too much time on
his eventual decline into the world of wrestling women, insulting
southerners and getting lung cancer. I myself enjoy two of those
Andy Kaufman sure was a fruitcake. I mean, there's a wide
buttload of debate about whether he was a genius or a nut. He
was probably loony first, pretty smart second. Genius? I doubt
it, but he gets credit for coming up with shit nobody else does.
His shit wasn't always funny right away, or ever, but a lot of
it would make you bust a gut later. Like when you're friend shits
his pants. You don't say anything then, but later, when you tell
other people, you can't help but laugh. For example, sitting
in a college auditorium hearing Kaufman recite "The Great
Gatsby" in a pompous English accent would be hell to sit
through, but that's funny to tell other people about. Same with
him taking a whole room out for milk and cookies. Kaufman's Tony
Clifton, the obnoxious lounge singer who enjoyed commenting on
the odor of women's vaginas (something even I consider tacky),
was probably a nightmare for anyone who wasn't in on the joke.
And that was the joke. It sure is more creative than some fucking
asshole comic in a blazer telling us how men and women are different,
or how airline food sucks.
Kaufman is such a fascinating lunatic that it's his comedy,
back from the grave, that makes "Man on the Moon" tolerable.
If it weren't for the fact it repeats his weird-ass routines,
the movie would fall flat on its flabby ass because it never
goes any deeper. It never tries to explain why Andy Kaufman was
funny, or more importantly, why he was a nutjob. It's too busy
reproducing moments of his life already available on video, starring
the real Andy Kaufman, not Jim Carrey. Think of this movie sort
of like Gus Van Sant's remake of "Psycho." It's a pitch-perfect
imitation that adds nothing of its own.
When I see movies about wackos, I want to know what made them
fuck-ups. I know why I am because my guidance counselor told
me: lack of respect for authority, laziness, poor work habits,
foul mouth, strong body odor. But what about Kaufman? What went
through his mind? How did he end up so weird and so successful?
Why did he get into wrestling matches with women? "Man on
the Moon" never says why. It just strings along vignettes
that recreate Andy Kaufman's routines. And, if I all I wanted
those, I'd go rent the video and not have to get it all filtered
The movie skates along a flat surface. It shows Kaufman as
a kid performing to a wall. Then, he gets fired from a bar where
he is performing children's songs. Next, he's knocking them dead
at the Improv. Well, what the fuck happened in between? How does
a guy who bombs in bars in upstate New York make it to the Improv?
What did he have to do, how did he have to change? Next thing
you know, Kaufman is bowling them over on Saturday Night Live.
Jesus, I wish my rise to stardom could be that simple. Instead,
I seem to be stuck at a level lower than Internet astrologists
and higher than the high school kids who write animé fanzines.
In every scene, you get the distinct sensation that you are
not watching Kaufman-you are watching Jim Carrey. Don't get me
wrong, Jim Carrey does a wonderful impression of Andy Kaufman.
It's a great lounge act, but never acting that helps us understand
the man he's playing. His first mistake is copying Kaufman's
voice. It's obviously not Carrey's voice and you are always aware
that he is imitating, not embodying. His second mistake is to
act like the man is purely made up of his tics and mannerisms.
I wanted something more, something revealing.
Courtney Love's screen time as Kaufman's girlfriend is thankfully
short. Her scratchy voice and skanky face always remind me that
she is a scheming, climbing pain in the ass, not a talented actress.
She is, however, the only women in Kaufman's life besides his
mom. Other than that, this movie is all about men. Oh, except
for the hot hookers at the brothel that Kaufman fucks (and you
see their titties).
Paul Giamatti plays the thankless role of Kaufman's friend
Bob Zmuda, and he's very good. He's lucky, Zmuda is not a public
figure and so he doesn't have to do a perfect impression him.
Instead he can interpret him. Danny Devito is George Shapiro,
an poorly-written Hollywood talent manager. The movie makes him
out to be some sort of put-upon saint who always stood up for
Kaufman. But come on, the guy is a talent manager. You know he's
sleazier and more money-grubbing than "Man on the Moon"
makes him out to be.
Overall, the movie is undercooked. When Carrey is being Kaufman
on stage it's funny as hell. But, you can't credit the moviemakers
for that. Andy still gets the credit. When the movie is working
from stuff outside of Kaufman's public life, it's boring and
meandering, and just there to get us to the next scene of Kaufman
Three fingers for "Man on the Moon," but if you're
really interested in Andy Kaufman, go rent his videos.