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Jakob the Liar

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Jakob the Liar

Starring: Robin Williams, Armin Mueller-Stahl
Director: Peter Kassovitz
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 114 Minutes
Release Date: September 1999
Genres: Drama, Comedy

*Also starring: Gregg Bello, Liev Schreiber, Alan Arkin, Bob Balaban, Hannah Taylor-Gordon, Michael Jeter, Nina Siemaszko

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1.  Susan Granger review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
2.  Harvey Karten read the review ---

Review by Susan Granger
3 stars out of 4

I suspect that if "Life is Beautiful" had not won last year's Oscar, this Holocaust film would be more appreciated. Unfortunately, the similarities are superficially apparent - revolving around a whimsical, imprisoned Jew who keeps hope alive and shields a small child amidst the Nazi atrocities. In this adaptation of Jurek Becker's 1969 best-seller by French writer/director Peter Kassovitz, Robin Williams plays Jakob, the latke (pancake) maker, who lives in a Polish ghetto. He's a widower who gets caught, allegedly after curfew, and sent to Gestapo headquarters where he overhears a radio bulletin indicating that Russian forces are advancing on Warsaw. Cautiously making his way home, he encounters a ten year-old girl (Hannah Taylor Gordon), an Anne Frank look-alike, whose parents were taken to a concentration camp and, sympathetically, shelters her. The next morning, Jakob is so excited about the war news that he confides it to one friend who tells another, who tells another, who tells another. Soon the gritty ghetto is humming, and the assumption is that Jakob has a forbidden radio on which he heard the broadcast. Suddenly Jakob becomes a celebrity, a reluctant hero because of his wishful thinking. "My crowning achievement: latkes and lies," he moans. But it's this dark joke, a sunny day, and a hopeful rumor that helped a few doomed Jews survive in 1944. Despite an awkward, indulgent screenplay, Robin Williams delivers a solid, restrained characterization, supported by Liev Schreiber, Alan Arkin, Armin Mueller-Stahl, and Bob Balaban. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Jakob the Liar" is a serio-comic 7. Curious side-note: Kassovitz sent the script to Robin Williams because he thought Williams was Jewish. He isn't, but he found the concept intriguing.

Copyright 2000 Susan Granger

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