Jakob the Liar (1999) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
91 Reviews
Sort by:
Dark comedy, with an appropriately surreal ending
Transit14 October 1999
What I like about Jakob's tale is that Jakob is no natural hero who sets out to keep hope alive. Far from it. He is an ordinary man, and as terrified of the Nazis as any of his neighbors in the ghetto. He blunders his way into his unlikely role as a keeper of hope, and once there, cannot see from moment to moment how he can maintain it, wishes at times he could be rid of the burden, and yet somehow, manages to continue to inspire others who are so desperate for hope, they don't even try to disbelieve. In short, don't be fooled by the title: Jakob is just this guy; plotwise, he is only a hub around which a large wheel turns.

There were parts that didn't work for me, especially pieces where narration would have worked better than a character monologue (Jakob is a narrator as well as a character, so why does he talk to himself instead of us so much?) But on the whole, it was a good story, well performed by those involved.

The ending, which I shall refrain from describing for the benefit of any who have not seen it, is absolutely fitting. It is surreal, which may bother some, but leaves the door open to so many interpretations that you will wonder whether to take it as the true end, or whether it was Jakob's final lie. And fittingly, the decision is left in the mind of the viewer.
13 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Testifying To The Power Of Hope
sddavis6329 December 2001
Over the years, I have found Robin Williams to be one of the most frustrating actors around. Clearly loaded with talent, in my opinion at least most of his movies have been disappointments. He either gives unnecessarily over-the-top performances that really don't fit the context, or he controls his natural comedic instincts to the point at which he comes across as uninspired. So I wasn't sure what to expect in "Jakob the Liar." What I found was a surprisingly good performance in a wonderful movie.

Williams plays Jakob Heym, confined to the Jewish Ghetto of Warsaw by the Nazis during the Second World War. With hope fading, Heym accidentally discovers that Russian troops aren't far away, and begins to spread the news. Others become convinced that he has a radio hidden, and Heym's fictional "news reports" from the BBC provide enough hope to keep the residents of the Ghetto going through this dark time.

Williams (also executive producer) did a fine job as Heym. As one would expect, his character comes across as something of a comedian ("I believe we're God's Chosen People; I just wish He had chosen someone else!") but his humour is appropriate; the sort of dark humour one would expect from people in this situation. The other performances faded into the background, not because they were bad but because Williams so dominated the movie. Special mention should go to Justus von Dohnanyi, though, who played the Nazi Commandant "Preuss." Dohnanyi manages to capture exactly the sort of slimy, inhuman character one would expect to be put in charge of such a business. The rest of the cast (primarily Hannah Taylor-Gordon as Lina and Liev Schreiber as Mischa) are good, but overshadowed by Williams.

The character of Kirschbaum (played by Armin Mueller-Stahl) filled me with sadness and represents a clear statement of the evils of Nazism. A world-famous cardiologist, Kirschbaum, because he is Jewish, is forbidden to practice medicine, and ends up cleaning toilets. Mueller-Stahl plays the character with a quiet dignity, and next to Williams is the clear highlight of the movie.

This movie represents a wonderful testimony to the importance of hope in helping people see themselves through what must seem to be impossible situations. Although fictional, it is an important movie for those with an interest in the events of this era.

29 out of 32 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Robin Williams should really stick to more serious roles like this.
Michael DeZubiria9 February 2004
I was completely stunned at how well Robin Williams pulled off more serious dramatic roles, since he's much more well-known for high-energy comedy. But his roles as the bad guy in movies like Insomnia or, even better, One Hour Photo display the extent of his acting abilities, since he is able to pull off such different characters so well. In Jakob the Liar, his comedic talents are restricted just enough so that he is able to function properly within the atmosphere of the movie, but is still allowed a scene or two in which his ability to get laughs can come out. He plays Jakob, a Jewish shopkeeper in a Nazi ghetto who tells a friend that he has a radio in order to prevent that friend from committing suicide.

Things do not appear to be going well within the ghetto, the war seems like it will never end, and morale among the imprisoned Jews is steadily waning, resulting in suicides left and right. As Jakob finds a friend of his doing something that will certainly get him killed by the Nazis (this particular friend decided to make a ham-handed attempt at escape rather than overtly kill himself), Jakob runs to him and tells him that he heard on the radio that the Russians were closing in and would liberate them any day. His skeptical friend doubts him, so Jakob quickly tells him that he has a radio so that he will believe the Russians will be there to save them all soon, and his friend's suicide is prevented.

By the next morning, literally everyone in the ghetto knows that Jakob Heym has a radio, and so he is venerated like a God and constantly hounded about what the newest news is, and thus enters the main conflict of the movie. And speaking of which, one of the things that I really liked about the movie was the complexity of its conflict. It's a conflict that you sit there knowing what needs to happen for a happy ending and so you sit there and hope for that, because every option has terrible consequences.

Jakob, first and foremost, is absolutely terrified that word will reach the Nazis who will execute him if they discover he has a radio (whether he really has it or not), yet at the same time he can't let it get out within the ghetto that he DOESN'T have a radio, because since the whole rumor began the rampant suicides have completely ceased. What he has to do, then, is walk the fine line between delivering lots of fictitious good news to the whole ghetto without letting the Nazis find out about it.

There is definitely something that needs to be said about the importance of a movie like this. Obviously, holocaust movies are nothing new, and different depictions of the holocaust have been especially in the spotlight since Roberto Benigni made a holocaust movie called Life Is Beautiful in 1997, at least half of which was a comedy. A lot of people felt that it was distasteful to present something as serious and tragic as the holocaust in such a light. And not just average moviegoers like me, either. Spielberg thought it was too lighthearted for such weighty subject matter, and from a certain point of view, he's right. On the other hand, however, the fact that you laughed during the film does not change the meaning of the war that it focuses on. The Nazis killed funny people, too.

I read a review on the title page for Jakob the Liar here on the IMDb, where a reviewer who completely missed the boat on this movie criticized it for things like the comedic content, the behavior and presentation of the Jews of the ghetto, and the choice of Robin Williams for the role of Jakob Heym. To be perfectly honest, I can never understand people like that. The way I see it, as long as a movie takes the holocaust seriously then it should not be criticized for being a holocaust film that's not in the right format or that had an actor who has done too many comedy roles. This same reviewer, by the way, praised Life Is Beautiful, a spectacular film, as is Jakob the Liar.

I can certainly understand that there are people who are touchy about the holocaust. It is inarguably one of the most tragic events in all of recorded human history, made even more tragic by the fact that it was perpetrated by humans against other humans. It's sickening. But there are no jokes about the holocaust in Jakob the Liar. The Jews do not act like victims. It is historically accurate and does not compromise the truth of what happened for the sake of entertainment. It presents a story of a ghetto full of captive Jews who have had their lives stolen from them and are desperate for some hope, and one man tries to help and inadvertently finds himself in a position to provide massive amounts of hope to them, but at massive risk to his own safety.

So if you don't like to see Robin Williams playing serious, dramatic roles (roles at which he is increasingly displaying his massive talent ), don't watch the movie! It is neither a secret that Williams is in the movie, nor that it's a serious role. One look at the cover box will tell you that. But if it's the holocaust being taken seriously that troubles you, maybe you should be more concerned about the fact that there are people, alive TODAY, here in the 21st Century, and presumably relatively educated American citizens, who DO NOT BELIEVE THAT THE HOLOCAUST EVER EVEN HAPPENED. So like I said, if you're that concerned about the portrayal of the holocaust, maybe focus your efforts on these nutcases who have convinced themselves that the holocaust itself is just a fable. Maybe a myth that mothers started telling their kids to make them scared of Germans or some other such nonsense.

Jakob the Liar has no illusions, it takes a tragedy in human history and tells a story of a man who did what he could to help those suffering around him, and Robin Williams should obviously be commended for the power of his performance, as should the rest of the cast. The thing to keep in mind is that there is no certain perspective from which to view things like the holocaust. Everyone has different thoughts and feelings about it, and in the movies these different perspectives can be provided in different ways without compromising the severity and finality of the event itself. Jakob the Liar does not at all trivialize the holocaust in any way, what it does is honor the loss of its victims, who came from all walks of life.
44 out of 52 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Lindy-2426 September 1999
Warning: Spoilers
I read the reviews and was a little hesitant to go see this movie. Not very good reviews. But after seeing the movie, I can't understand why the critics didn't like it. Guess they want Robin Williams to stay in his mold as a comedian. I've seen him in his recent serious roles, and I think he is an excellent drama actor. I think he has come a long way since Mork and Mindy. This movie was very good. It is a movie about the holocaust in Poland. It takes place in the ghetto and tells of a used to be restaurant owner who here's some propaganda on the radio (in the gestapos office) and ends up telling lies to boost his fellow mans moral. I don't want to go into detail to much cuz it would spoil the movie for you. Also, he meets a little girl who escaped from a train to the camps and befriends Jakob who takes her in and takes care of her. They have a very cute relationship. All in all I thought this movie was very well done and portrayed the holocaust in a very realistic way. The cast was very good..........you must go see this movie!!!!
28 out of 33 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Excellent Entertainment
Mark Walston27 October 2004
If you are interested in the holocaust, and want to be entertained at the same time, Jakob the Liar is your film. This is not intended to be an historical film. And, to be sure, it isn't.

Just speaking for myself, I wish everyone would educate themselves about this horrible episode in human history. If you have a friend who refuses to watch honest historical films, turn them on to Jakob the Liar. It IS Robin Williams, after all. For sure, this film will encourage them to learn more about the holocaust. Its very entertaining and does give some superficial insight into what the atrocity was all about.

Robin Williams did his best. He did a fine job in this film, and deserves even more credit just for making the attempt. On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give it an 8.
28 out of 34 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Weebette25 September 1999
Maybe the reason I keep hearing so many negative comments on this film is because people aren't seeing it for what it is. It is not a comedy by any stretch of the imagination. It is not an attempt to profit from LA VITA E BELLA (this was filmed in the autumn of '97, before the Benigni film was even released in Italy).

The truth is, JAKOB THE LIAR is an incredible film in its own right. I've read/seen many other Holocaust testimonials (including MAUS and the aforementioned LA VITA E BELLA), but this was by far the most stirring of any of them. I was especially impressed by Robin Williams' performance. Granted, I'm partial to him, but I was completely bowled over by this performance. I believe this is the darkest and most serious role he has ever done, but he pulls it off magnificently.

Don't believe the nay-sayers on this one ... this is incredible. It's a must-see for everyone. Would I lie to you?
27 out of 33 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
One of the best movies I've ever seen
6 6 65 March 2004
NO SPOILERS, read freely. I had long heard about this movie but I did not have a slight clue of how good it really was. Apart Michael Jeter, Alan Arkin, Robin Williams and Armin Mueller-Stahl I wasn't really familiar with many other faces on the screen but everyone stood up to their role brilliantly. This WWII drama narrates the story of accidental prophet Jakob whose lies bring hope to those living in his Ghetto in a time of hardship. It's a sad story but more than once you are forced to smile by the evvents. Missing out on this one would be a pity. Everything about JAKOB THE LIAR is perfect, it's a very realistic down to earth story, acting and script are also brilliant...not to mention Edward Shearmur's really heartwarming scoundtrack, what a pity it has not been released. (the CD) A must for the lovers of the genre.
13 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Another solid performance by Robin Williams!
yossarian1002 March 2004
Don't be put off by the negative comments. If you like the characters Robin Williams creates, and you like unusual dramas, you'll like Jakob the Liar. The film wanted to be Roberto Benigni and Life is Beautiful but never seemed to have the courage to go there, even with Robin Williams in the lead, until the last few scenes of the movie. However, being another Life is Beautiful is asking an awful lot. Life is Beautiful is one of the great films of all time. Having said that, Jakob the Liar is fiendishly good, creatively done, and Robin Williams does a fine job, even when Hannah Taylor-Gordon, who plays Lina, wasn't stealing every scene she was in. So, settle down and give this little movie a try. If nothing else, it's another solid performance by Robin Williams.
12 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
great story
alex28 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is a great mix of history and humour, which Robin Williams delivers brilliantly. Set in late 1944, it tells the story of a Jew living in his hometown that the Germans have taken control of. When he is sent to a German officer's office for being out after curfew he hears a report that the Russians are heading in his towns direction and thinks they may free him and his town from the Germans. The next day he tells his friend what he heard, in confidence, but doesn’t believe Jakob heard it on a German radio and believes Jakob has his own radio (Jew's were forbidden to own or listen to radio's, and rarely return from German office's,). Once the rumour spreads that the Russian's are coming and that Jakob has a radio, the town keeps asking for more Information. Jakob has to make up information since no one believes he doesn’t have a radio and the information brings the Jew's hope. Meanwhile Jakob has taken in a little Jewish girl who has escaped form a train heading to the gas "showers" and must also keep hidden from the Germans. Just a great story of Jewish life in the war without to much war violence.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Possibly the most underrated movie of the last five years
Yankees12020 April 2002
It's always a shame to see movies that we feel bring so much to the table, be given bad reviews or do poorly at the box-office. While people who say the "holocaust film" has become a trite and overdone genre may be correct, this film is an outstanding piece of work that suffered mainly because it was released around the same time as the fairly similar "Life is Beautiful." with Roberto Benini. The story follows a jewish man named Jakob, who had been forced into a ghetto by the nazis. (hollywood's favorite villians by far) After overhearing a radio transmission, he relays the information to his companions that the russians are coming closer to liberating the ghetto. His friends misunderstand this, and believe that he himself has a radio, and press him for more at every turn. He is forced to make up news, in order to give his fellow prisoners hope. This film is not only about one man bringing hope to people who otherwise have none. It is about the sacrifices that some people are willing to make, in order to keep that hope alive. The jewish doctor in this film was actually in the original movie (made in germany in the mid 70's) The sacrifice the doctor makes is very moving, and gives a clear cut message of the film. At the time, many critics disliked this film. If they had a chance to review it again however, I think that they would most likely change their perspective. Nine out of Ten.
18 out of 26 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Engrossing tale of hope kept alive in a wartime Jewish ghetto
roghache22 April 2006
Personally, I found very touching & heart wrenching this story of one man's efforts to lift spirits in a World War II Jewish ghetto in Poland. Many have compared it to Life is Beautiful, and there are some similarities. I can understand why some viewers take offense at any film which might seem to trivialize the Holocaust, but I found Life is Beautiful not disrespectful but deeply moving, and consider this particular tale to be a captivating depiction of one individual's unique attempt to keep hope alive in a desperate situation.

The story revolves around a lonely Polish shopkeeper & widower, Jakob, who is confined to a Jewish ghetto in 1944. When summoned to ghetto headquarters for being out after curfew, he hears a radio report about Russian troop movements. To prevent a friend's suicide, he claims to have heard on his radio that the Russians are very close (within a few hundred kilometers) and will liberate the ghetto soon, causing rumours that Jakob has a secret radio. Instead of telling the truth, he tries to lift spirits and impart hope to the war weary & depressed ghetto inhabitants by maintaining the fiction of possessing this radio, and regularly disseminating uplifting fictional news bulletins about the Allies' progress. Meanwhile, Jakob is also hiding a young Jewish girl who escaped from a camp transport. The Germans hear reports of this forbidden radio and are seeking out the resistance operator of it.

Robin Williams dominates this movie and is brilliant as usual in the endearing, sympathetic role of the kind Jakob who must try to balance getting out lots of hopeful (if fictitious) war reports to keep spirits up while at the same time avoid Nazi suspicion and detection.

The movie portrays the despair of the ghetto's inhabitants and the grave injustice of their captive state. For example, Jewish people are prohibited from practicing medicine and a cardiologist is reduced to cleaning toilets, though does so with good humour, grace, and dignity. On the whole it is a very poignant tale, with any humour having a sad note to it. Jakob the Liar shows another tragic aspect of the Holocaust. Rather than the horrors of the concentration camps that are often the setting of such stories, here we see the injustice and despair of prolonged ghetto captivity.
6 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Jakob tries to give us hope by making up the happy ending
Vladimir_Grozescu9 June 2002
Warning: Spoilers
First thing...

People who say the ending is too sentimental and sappy don't understand! Sadly, it's not happy like many believe. In Jakob's final narration, he was trying to instill hope in the viewers just like he did with his people when he falsely said he had the radio. This is evident when he says, "Or MAYBE..." He made many of the hopeful things up throughout the movie, so that's why I think he made up the happy ending.

Now to the review...

A very good movie. It seems overlong at times, but the wonderful performance of Robin Williams as Jakob held my interest very much. This is a dreary, depressing film, and hardly has any humor. The type of humor found in this movie is extremely dry, and isn't for everyone (I know it isn't my type). As for the cinematography, well, it was wonderful. There's not much color in this film, only drab and soft brown, black and gray tones, which add to the atmosphere of sadness. Overall, a very effective film.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10
7 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A story poorly told
FlickJunkie-223 March 2000
This remake of the 1974 film by the same name draws obvious comparisons to `Life is Beautiful', but it is a poor substitute in every regard. This film sometimes tries to be `Hogan's Hero's' in its farcical sendup of German captivity and at other times it tries to be `Schindler's List' with disturbing portrayals of the inhumanity of the holocaust. Unlike `Life is Beautiful' which was a bittersweet story lovingly done, this story is merely distasteful and makes a mockery of the plight of the Jews in captivity during WWII. It portrays the citizens of the ghetto as bumbling idiots with little regard for the gravity of their situation. A holocaust story is no place for Keystone Cops comedy skits.

Director Peter Kassovitz gives us nothing distinctive from a visual standpoint, nor does he bring forth the proper tone and mood from the actors. The acting is uniformly mediocre. Alan Arkin has given us numerous excellent performances, but his character was so insubstantial and inane, it was difficult for him not to look foolish. Liev Schreiber, as Mischa, made the character into a complete buffoon (perhaps that is what Kassovitz intended).

Finally, Robin Williams needs to seek career counseling. He keeps taking these poignant comedic roles that are just not right for his talents. He needs to realize his limitations and embrace his genius. He is incomparable in frenetic, over the edge comedic roles that require quick witted ad libs and shock comedy. As a serious actor he is simply unexceptional and his attempts at such are especially disappointing when compared against his true ability.

I rated this film a 4/10. If it was a holocaust story that needed to be told, it certainly needed to be told differently.
10 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A cinematic masterpiece
firstsonxb14 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
The great thing about this movie is how honest it is. Even though some of the things you see may be a bit graphic, the movie dosen't hold back. The tag line "when there was no hope, he invented it" is very fitting for this movie. Doing the same type of thing he did as Adrian Chronhour in Good Morning Vietnam, Robin Williams shines. Personally, I think it is best performance yet. It was such an impacting movie. When Jacob(Robin Williams) does that first "Radio broadcast", you feel yourself laugh along with the little girl whom he befriends. I really liked this movie.(in case you didn't figure that out) The performances were very solid, the heartfelt moments were touching and the direction was solid. It was a visually engrossing movie. It makes you laugh, cry and at the end feel good about your life. If it's Friday night and you want a drama, take this one home.
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Robin Williams gives an Oscar-worthy performance.
Lockjaw-220 September 1999
I saw this at a sneak preview hosted by the Jewish Community Center, and was probably the only goy in the audience! This movie deeply moved me. Robin Williams deserves an Oscar for his portrayal of Jakob. The supporting cast was fantastic. I highly recommend it.
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Comedy in the Ghetto? Oy Vey!
sbox16 May 2000
Warning: Spoilers
WARNING: May Contain Spoilers.

What's next for Robin Williams? How about, "Throttle Up," in which Williams plays a slapstick NASA engineer on the day that shuttle Challenger blows up? Doesn't sound like a good idea, does it?

Well neither does "Jakob the Liar."

This tale may have made it if it were approached in the same vein as Bill Murray's, "The Razor's Edge." In that film, we saw a comedic giant act in a purely dramatic role. While no box office success, it was a good film.

The problem with, "Jakob" is that drama is often sacrificed for really senseless and unfunny comedy. These scenes are accompanied by stereotypical music that reminds the audience the ghetto community is jewish. DUH! To make matters worse, several of the American cast members, drift in and out of ridiculous accents.

Unfortunately it doesn't end here. One of the characters in the ghetto happens upon a pistol. One would think the film would triumph his incredible luck. Oh no, the politically correct crowd who makes movies these days, had to impose nineties' anti gun fervor on the ghetto victims of the forties. It seems if you ever needed a gun, it just might be at the moment you are about to be hauled off to a death camp in a cattle car!

In sum, "Jakob the Liar" is a film made in incredibly poor taste. There were some good parts, but I refuse to discuss them.
5 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Could Never really tell what it was Going for,
FilmBuff19941 April 2015
Jakob the Liar is a brutal movie with a poorly written storyline and a good cast that sadly weren't enough at all to make this worthwhile. The biggest issue with the movie is that it never really knows what genre it wants to be, there are intense and dramatic war scenes, and then straight after there could be a very comedic scene, this is a huge problem as because of the comedic scenes, you couldn't take the dramatic scenes seriously and because of the dramatic scenes, you couldn't laugh at the comedy. I'm a huge fan of Robin Williams but even he couldn't make this enjoyable for me, I didn't find Jakob to be a likable character and didn't care for him, as for the rest of the cast, there was a complete lack of chemistry and none of them put enough effort in to their performances. Tries to be both funny and dramatic and mostly fails at both, I wouldn't recommend Jakob the Liar to anyone.

A prisoner in a ghetto in wartime Poland decides to invent optimistic news to cheer up his fellow prisoners.

Best Performance: Robin Williams Worst Performance: Hannah Taylor Gordon
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
"We are the chosen people...but I wish the Almighty had chosen someone else."
moonspinner5518 August 2011
Robin Williams plays a storekeeper and 'part-time Jew' in 1944 Poland who invents uplifting radio announcements to get his bedraggled comrades through tough times during the Nazi regime; soon, though, his friends want to see the radio and hear the broadcasts for themselves. From Jurek Becker's novel, previously filmed in Germany in 1975, but lacking style and emotional punch. The wayward Jewish accents are almost cartoonish in their over-exaggeration, and casting Williams as Jakob was a gambit that just doesn't work (his performance plays like a medley of the actor's other serious turns on film). Although a big-budget production, the picture has a constricted, set-bound feel, and offers viewers little but maudlin sentiments and cheap lines of self-deprecating humor. Apparently heartfelt intentions can't keep this from misfiring. *1/2 from ****
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Please Don't Let This Film Be Forgotten...
musichawkeye19 May 2010
Wow. Jakob the Liar. Where to being with this movie? I mean, it's pretty under the radar as far as WWII movies about Jews in the ghetto go. I hate to say it, but that whole concept is frankly getting a little boring. Add in some generic scores from multiple review sites, and this movie seems doomed to be forgotten. Jakob the Liar tells the story of (wait for it…) Jakob Hyem. The movie begins with Jakob (played by Robin Williams in one of his surprisingly many serious roles) narrating a joke to the audience. "Hitler goes to a fortune-teller and asks, 'When will I die?' And the fortune-teller replies, 'On a Jewish holiday.' Hitler then asks, 'How do you know that?' And she replies, 'Any day you die will be a Jewish holiday.'" This basically sets up the entire tone of the movie. It's a film about finding hope through humor in a pretty terrible situation. This isn't a new concept, but it knows that from beginning to end (ESPECIALLY at the end, but I'll get to that later). Anyway, fast-forward a bit, and Jakob finds himself awaiting punishment for a pretty harmless crime in the office of a German soldier. While he awaits the officer's actual arrival, he manages to overhear a radio telling of Russia's arrival into Germany. So Jakob goes on with his life until he one day stops one of his fellow workers from doing something drastic by telling him of the news he heard on the radio. The worker, taking this out of context, assumes Jakob has a secret forbidden radio in his home. Despite Jakob's explanations denouncing this idea, the man simply assumes this is all a front so as not to get in trouble with the Gestapo. The news of Jakob's radio, of course, spreads quickly throughout the entire ghetto. Suddenly, Jakob has many new friends. He continues to deny owning a radio out of fear for his life but quickly realizes the actual hope it brings to these people. So, he inevitably continues the lie by making up new stories on a regular basis of the Russian front which his coworkers eat up like candy. Let me just say this about his coworkers. I don't know why, but I absolutely fell in love with these people. Maybe it was the surprisingly stellar performances from a movie that I thought would just be mediocre. Maybe it was the Mountain Dew I just happened to chug right as I started watching this. Either way, this was one of those movies that makes you go, "Oh hey! It's THAT guy! Hold on. Pause the movie for a sec. I gotta go look up who these guys are and what else they've been in, or I won't be able to focus." So in this cavalcade, we've got Liev "Sabretooth from X-Men" Schreiber, Mark "Tio from television's Breaking Bad" Margolis, Bob "Captain Orr from Catch-22" Balaban, Michael "Mr. Noodle from Sesame Street" Jeter, and the always amazing Alan "Too Many Characters to List" Arkin. This was, hands down, one of my favorite casts to follow throughout a film. Each actor took their character's unique traits in stride, making for some great back-and-forth dialogue. You can tell they each truly enjoyed their characters, leading to, dare I say it, some of the best performances in all of their careers. "But Hawkeye, why should I care about pretty good acting in a movie about the Holocaust when I can just go watch Schindler's List?" Well, eager reader, I'm actually glad you brought that film up. Here, have a cookie. Honestly, I don't think this movie wants to be associated with Schindler's List or any of that film's wannabes. For instance, this film has Robin Williams as its titular character. That right there should show you how much this movie wants to be associated as something different. This was a film that dared to say, "Hey. Let's tone down the over-the-top empathy for once, shall we?" I think this is both where the film excelled and doomed itself. You see, normally movies like this end with a big tear-worthy speech from the hero. Instead…well, I don't want to spoil anything, but here are Robin William's words basically spelling out the reality of trying to live each day as a Jew during the Holocaust: "So that's how it ended. I never got a chance to be the big hero and make my big speech. I swear, I had a speech all prepared about freedom and never giving in. But somehow... Yes, that's how it ended. They all went off to the camps and were never seen again. But maybe it wasn't like that at all." In a way, it all sort of reminded me of the film Waltz With Bashir. Like Bashir's Ari Folman, Jakob is more of an observer than an actual hero per se. He wants and tries to be a hero, but he has a certain sense of reality I absolutely fell in love with that Robin Williams truly brings to life. In fact, I think I'm going to have to say this was Robin Williams best serious acting role. It definitely was my favorite. If for some reason none of this has caught your fancy, at least watch Jakob the Liar for what I believe to be one of the most memorable monologues I've heard in a long time. We find Jakob alone in front of his pancake shop contemplating the mess he's just gotten himself into with the radio. Solemnly, he takes a seat and stares at the ground before beginning to talk aloud to no one in particular. "Yeah, it is crazy. I know. But when I started to make up those things...I almost believed them. I know. The point is, what am I going to invent tomorrow? In my whole life, my greatest invention was an apricot pancake. A latke. My crowning achievement: Latkes and lies."
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Very good movie
jennampoole9 May 2006
Well in my 9th grade history class in school we are learning about WW2 and so we watched Jakob the Liar and I think it was great, Robin Williams does good in the movie. I think they did the movie real well and really do good at showing how it was back in the 1940's during the war and how the Jews were treated. And i like how hey put some comedy into it also but not to much. When watching the movie i was very entertained the whole time. And the whole time you are left in suspense trying to figure out what is going next and what is going to happen to the main character Jakob with all the lying he does if either he was going to get caught or get away with it. And also how long he was going to go with the lie of him having a radio.And i just recommend this movie to teens or teachers who are looking for a good World War 2 movie.
9 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
worst remake ever! they just not get it
strange-world25 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
this has to be the worst remake ever. It's not only Robin Williams, he's just bad as usual. They just changed the most powerful scene from the 1975 original by Frank Beyer.

SPOILER ahead When Lina discovers that Jakob has no radio at all, she prolongs his lie, so that he can still believe in it too. In this disgraceful remake, she goes to him and dances with him. They just don't get the message of the book by Jurek Becker.

I can't understand this. So leave this one alone and watch "Jakob der Lügner", by the way the only movie from the former GDR ever to be nominated for an Oscar as best foreign language film.
5 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Movie about hope
Petri Pelkonen21 July 2006
Jakob the Liar is an underrated movie.I just want to say that before anything else in my review.The movie tells about Jakob Heym, excellently played by Robin Williams.Jakob is a Jewish shop keeper living in Polish ghetto in 1944.He overhears a German radio broadcast about Russian troop movements.When he shares the information with a friend a rumor about a secret radio starts spreading in the ghetto.Jakob starts making up stories to the ghetto inhabitants he has heard from his 'secret radio'.This way he brings hope to the people who are losing it.Peter Kassovitz' Jakob the Liar (1999) hasn't got as much credit it would have deserved.It's a movie about an important matter.It combines comedy and tragedy in a great way.It has a brilliant cast.Robin Williams is just amazing.This actor, who turns 55 today (congratulations) has a great ability to act both comic and dramatic roles.He is a great man and a great actor.The young Hannah Taylor- Gordon is excellent playing Lina Kronstein, the Jewish girl Jakob is hiding.She was amazing also playing Anne Frank a couple years later.I hope we'll be hearing a lot from her in the future.Then there are also these greats; Bob Balaban (Kowalsky), Alan Arkin (Max Frankfurter), Michael Jeter (Avron), Liev Schreiber (Mischa the Prizefighter), director's son Mathieu Kassovitz (Herchel) and lots of others.This is a movie that can make you laugh and it is a movie that can make you cry.It shows all these poor people living under the horrors of war, under the circumstances you can not justify. Horrible things happened back then and now there are movies to show us it all.This is a movie about hope.Hope is still there in the dramatic ending.Hope is seen through the tears.Isn't that, hope, all we need in the end?
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
See it for itself
Reyka27 September 1999
There is so much negativity regarding this film. Please judge it on its own merits, of which there are many, and stop comparing it to Life Is Beautiful. The movie was touching and compelling; the actors and the story made it so. Well done!
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
I wouldn't waste my money if I were you.
cat lady26 September 1999
I totally agree with the review. The end of the money absolutely kills it. Save your money for a better film. While Williams gives a great performance, the script is lacking. Next time, I'll not go to a movie til it's been out at least a week.
4 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The Worst Movie I have ever seen
lvnsuede169 April 2002
I've seen Wild Wild West, I've seen Orgasmo, and I've even seen Roseta. NOTHING, I repeat NOTHING is as bad as Jakob the Liar. This film had no drama, a terrible story, poorly developed characters, bad accents, you NAME IT this film had it. I'm sorry I saw it, I wish I could wipe its memory from my brain permanently. I love movies, I love Robin Williams, I even love Alan Arkin BUT THIS WAS TERRIBLE!!!!!!!
5 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews