Jim Carrey is nothing, if not a true chameleon. A gifted impressionist and a surprisingly good actor, Carrey does everything he can to bring bizarre comedian Andy Kaufman back to life in 1999's MAN ON THE MOON.
For those of us that remember Kaufman, he was always a polarizing comedian. All of his biggest cultural moments are recreated here as we watch Andy's strange path from obscurity to fame.
His first appearance on SNL, miming one or two lines from an old Mighty Mouse record is so sparse and bizarre that it quickly elevates to brilliance.
Kaufman's stint on the ABC hit sitcom 'Taxi" is recreated with many of the original stars of the show, including Judd Hirsch and Christopher Lloyd.
As Andy's rejection of the mainstream leads him deep into the world of wrestling, his twisted performance art finds him squaring off in one of the most profane and violent moments on Late Night with David Letterman, who reprises his real life moments on the big screen.
Director Milos Foreman (One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Ragtime) and his screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (Ed Wood) struck cinema gold together in 1996 when they created the smart film biography "The People vs Larry Flynt".
Their biggest challenge this time is the same one that we have watching the film. Kaufman is so bizarre and so determined to find his own path that he rarely lets his guard down. Who is the real Kaufman?
Carrey is fantastic portraying the sweet, unique Andy and his rude, abrasive alter ego Tony Clifton. Clifton was Andy's outlet for his darker side, hidden in a fat suit like a menacing, obese Don Rickles determined to make everyone uncomfortable.
Danny DeVito is good, if rather one-note as Kaufman's longtime manager George Shapiro.
Courtney Love is terrific as Andy's love Lynne, matching her strong performance as Larry Flynt's wife in their earlier bio.
Paul Giamatti (Sideways, Straight Outta Compton) is very good as Kaufman's longtime comedy partner Bob Zmuda. Zmuda and Kaufman are so close, its sometimes difficult to tell them apart.
Watch for Patton Oswalt in a small role and many comedians playing themselves.
Kaufman's not an easy subject for a bio.
He seems determined to self sabotage any measure of normal success at every turn. He rarely pulls back the curtain to anyone in his life except for brief moments with Lynne.
By the film's end, you wonder how much of his life was a huge practical joke on humanity.
Carrey is amazing from the first frame to the last, he IS Andy Kaufman. It's just a shame that we end the film having learned a lot about Kaufman, but no closer to knowing him.
It would seem that most people that met Andy left him feeling the same way.
MAN ON THE MOON is intelligent and funny while oozing a unique melancholy very much Kaufman's own. It gets a B-.