Tom Shadyac has made fewer than ten movies and I’ve been tricked into seeing more than half of them. It is painfully obvious he isn’t very good at his job, but despite the fact he’s directed so few movies, the ones he has been greenlighted for have been almost exclusively big budget films with big name actors. One could argue he put Jim Carrey on the map, but I would argue that Jim Carrey put Jim Carrey on the map and then helped out Shadyac in a couple other movies as well.
Shadyac does comedies almost exclusively and his movies seem to advertise that a joke is only done well if it’s exaggerated to the breaking point. I don’t know if Shadyac purposefully directs actors who love physical comedy and fast-talking jokes (Murphy, Carrey, Williams) or if he just doesn’t know how to rein an actor in for the more subtle nuances of comedy. Maybe both. What I do know is that he tries to plug dramatic, tear-jerker moments into many of his comedies, and without exception every one of these moments is awful.
Stay away, and read below if you want the evidence.
Evan Almighty: I haven’t seen the whole movie from start to finish, but I’ve seen the beginning and the last forty-five minutes or so. Carell really looks like he doesn’t give a shit. I haven’t seen Bruce Almighty, which I’m sure is better, but I’ll do my best not to.
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective: This was my first introduction to Jim Carrey and I carried a special loathing for him for way too long because of it. It took me a while to realize I hated the character and not the actor, but I was so angry that other people loved this movie that I couldn’t get over it. The only part I enjoyed was Dan Marino, not because of any skills he has in front of the camera, but the jokes at his expense. For a while after this movie, whenever the Dolphins would get knocked out of the playoffs, I’d yell for him to get gonorrhea and rot in hell.
Patch Adams: Roger Ebert had a special, angry place in his heart for this movie, which I didn’t understand when I was 17. In fact, I laughed a lot when I first saw it. Now I can barely stomach it. The whole premise, a wannabe doctor who truly believes laughter is the best medicine, is irredeemable and insulting, and that’s before Patch begins tearing down the evil straw men presented to him. The romantic subplot is beyond manipulative, and the final courtroom scene is so laughably out of place one wondered if the writers forgot what script they had in front of them. Robin Williams has become a comedic hack, but nobody could have saved this script with this direction.
The Nutty Professor: A pretty decent cast, and Eddie Murphy does a remarkably pointless job of playing several different fat characters, but everything’s just a bit too obvious.
Liar Liar: Easily Shadyac’s best movie. I don’t like it quite as much as I did at the time. It has the same problems most of Shadyac’s movies have, false sentimentality and dishonest character motivations. However, Carrey is at his absolute best, playing a lawyer who suddenly cannot lie, even with something as banal as the color of a pen (rrrrrrooooyal blue!). Beyond his antics and the easy but fun jokes the premise delivers, there’s not much there.
Other Tom Shadyac Movies You May Want To Avoid