To the moon, Jim Carrey!

By Chris Simmons

Before Tom Green dazzled audiences by humping a moose, there was Andy Kaufman. While Green’s shows are usually split into half brilliant comedy and half dull shock, both sides can be seen in Kaufman. Kaufman, who is too often solely associated with his stint on Taxi is the subject of the new Jim Carrey movie, Man on the Moon. The film follows the life of Andy Kaufman from his early days doing twisted Elvis impersonations and performing the role of Foreign Man. Foreign Man became Latka on Taxi and a curious fact given by the film is that Kaufman never enjoyed his time on Taxi. He called sitcoms one of the lowest forms of entertainment and used it as an avenue for the creative freedom it gave to his own experiments on mass audiences. His career is hardly believable.

He went from wrestling 400 women as the self-proclaimed Intergender Champion of wrestling to playing a sold-out Carnegie Hall, all of whom he took for milk and cookies after the show.

He was voted off of Saturday Night Live by a phone-in vote and staged a serious neck injury while wrestling–not even his mother was told it was a joke. As well, he had an alter-ego named Tony Clifton, a fat, obnoxious lounge singer, who Kaufman refused to admit was really him.

Jokes such as this soon annoyed many audiences and the depiction of this problem is one of the film’s strengths. Although it was made by many of Kaufman’s friends, it neither sanctifies nor vilifies Kaufman. It acknowledges that Kaufman played a dangerous game trying to erase the line between comedy and reality that was met with both success and failure. Nonetheless, his intent to create mayhem must be respected.

Before we go calling this simply Jim Carrey’s new movie, there are a lot of other major forces playing with this screen. Not just box-office forces but real cinematic forces like director Milos Forman (One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest), Danny DeVito, Courtney Love and the always cute Judd Hirsch. DeVito plays Kaufman’s manager with usual brilliance. He tries without sleaze to negotiate between Andy’s mad ideas and movie exec’s dollar sign eyes looking to harness his creative energy. Love plays Kaufman’s girlfriend with a divine mixture of mirth and melody.

The links between Jim Carrey and Andy Kaufman are astonishing. Both suffered from being identified with one or two popular skits to the expense of their ability to experiment, but Carrey was fortunate to do some very creative work. While his early films are masterpieces of stoner comedy, his recent films are consistently enjoyable for everyone

A complex theme, a great story and bundles of chuckles are a delight for any palette.

Man on the Moon opens Dec. 22 .