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Man on the Moon

Rated [R], 118 minutes
Starring Jim Carrey, Danny DeVito, Courtney Love, and Tony Clifton
Written by Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski
Directed by Milos Forman
website: www.manonthemoon.com

If you don't have the slightest idea of who Andy Kaufman was, nothing in director Milos Forman's movie will widen your horizons about the man. You might, as a couple of folk at the screening I went to, walk out early. Come to think of it, that might have been a reaction that Kaufman would have enjoyed, which is about as high a compliment as I can think to pay for Jim Carrey's awesome performance as Kaufman. Those of you who do have more than a passing familiarity will be busting a gut within seconds of the start of the film, which features the "foreign man" in a bit so conceptually brilliant that some idiot critic will no doubt give away the details in a review. Cranky's no idiot (and he's busy looking for a couple of missing pieces of busted gut) so, if you're inclined, get there before it's spoiled for you.

By the time of his death in 1984, from a rare form of lung cancer this fan of Kaufman's stuff (from the first Saturday Night Live on out) thought that Kaufman had gone seriously overboard with his misogynist wrestling routine and run ins with professional wrestler Jerry Lawler. What then to make of his Carnegie Hall concert, with Andy singing children's songs, flying Santa Claus through the hall on wires and taking the entire audience out for milk and cookies as a finale? It's simple. Kaufman was a master manipulator, who would set up situations and not let go until he had beaten the audience into submission. Or gales of laughter, depending on the event.

Bob Zmuda (Paul Giamatti), Kaufman's cohort in comedic crime helped set up many of the events seen in the flick. As an executive producer on the flick he may be continuing to spark rumors that Kaufman's death was the ultimate setup -- there are blatant and subtle clues to prod that notion along throughout the movie, all of which center on lounge lizard Tony Clifton, who is just one of many real people to take cameo parts. If you know enough to e-mail me saying "Kaufman was Clifton" then you're only ankle deep in the con and are the perfect target for this flick.

We see bits and pieces of Andy Kaufman's family and personal life. His commitment to Transcendental Meditation. His relationship with girlfriend and collaborator Lynne Margulies (Courtney Love). The biggest compliment I'll toss to any of the cast is to Danny DeVito, who has moved so far beyond his Taxi days that Louie DePalma makes no appearance in this movie. Playing George Shapiro, Kaufman's agent, DeVito offers a performance that won' let you wonder where Louie is, even as the rest of the regular Taxi cast (except Tony Danza) do their cameos in a quick montage that gets that part of Kaufman's career off the screen quickly.

The same cannot be said for the cast of Fridays, who were suckered by Kaufman in cahoots with an ABC Television Executive (Vincent Schiavelli, who appeared in Taxi episodes 87, 94 and 112) who, in turn, was suckered.

That's it in a nutshell. Kaufman made suckers of us all. If we got even half of the joke, Man on the Moon is a great flick. If you didn't, or think you'll be getting Jim Carrey doing something Carrey-ish, then you'll feel like a sucker for buying the ticket.

I stated my feelings a couple of 'graphs up.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Man on the Moon, he would have paid...


I want to see Carrey nominated for this part 'cuz I want to see who picks up the statue if he wins.

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