ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BOB WADE
“Man on the Moon.” Rated R. I give it a 4 on a scale of 5.
For many people, two hours dedicated to the memory of the late comedian Andy Kaufman might be too much. But, for those who fondly recall the quirky, unpredictable style of the man who never wanted to be known as a comedian at all, “Man on the Moon” is an interesting trip down memory lane.
Rated R for one scene in which Jim Carrey as Kaufman roughhouses with a couple of topless prostitutes, the film is otherwise harmless. Carrey’s imitation of Kaufman is uncanny. In fact, those of us who remember Kaufman at his offbeat best come to think of Carrey as Kaufman by the time the film ends.
While the movie vividly recreates portions of the life of Kaufman, it never adequately explains it. We never learn what makes the former “Taxi” cast member tick. We never even get much of a hint, other than one early scene where Kaufman’s father tells a young Andy that he will only allow Andy to perform around the house if there is a live audience. So, the youngster drafts his willing sister to meet his father’s requirement.
Anyone who saw Kaufman perform his unique style of standup will appreciate Carrey’s portrayal. It is almost as if Carrey becomes Kaufman for the duration of the movie. The attention to detail is a true tribute one of the most hard-to-understand celebrities of the late 1970s and early ’80s.
Kaufman’s debut on “Saturday Night Live,” for example, consisted of his lip synching the chorus to the theme from “Mighty Mouse.”
According to the movie, he reluctantly agreed to play Latka on “Taxi” only after ABC agreed to four guest appearances by Kaufman’s alter ego, the overweight and overmouthy lounge singer Tony Clifton. Of course, ABC executives did not know Clifton and Kaufman were the same person.
Kaufman delighted in shocking his audiences. He antagonized women across America, then challenged them one and all to wrestle him.
Eventually, he squared off against professional wrestler Jerry Lawler, who plays himself in the movie, in the ring and on “Late Night with David Letterman.” The movie contends that their feud was a made-for-TV event, and the two were actually good friends.
Danny DeVito, who starred with Kaufman on “Taxi,” plays Kaufman’s agent, George Shapiro. Courtney Love plays Kaufman’s love interest, Lynne Margulies. The movie also provides plenty of celebrity cameos from Kaufman’s era.
I wouldn’t label “Man on the Moon” as a comedy. It is more of a celebrity biography, though not as objectively prepared as one viewers will find on cable biography shows.
Ironically, though the movie was at least mildly successful at the box office, Kaufman himself never made it to the big screen. He died of a rare form of lung cancer in 1984, so what really made him tick will likely never truly be known.
But, love him or hate him, most critics agree that Kaufman was certainly a unique performer, and his unorthodox style has never been matched.
Bob Wade is a local video enthusiast. The videos he reviews come courtesy of Radio Shack/Quick Flick Video, 110 N. Main, Hillsboro.