Man on the Moon (1999) Review

“Andy, you have to look inside and ask this question: who are you trying to entertain – the audience or yourself?”

The good:

  • Jim Carrey’s dedicated impression if Andy Kaufman will satisfy fans of the late comedian
  • The nuances, mannerisms, and intricacies of Kaufman’s personality and life are carefully re-enacted.

The bad:

  • Sad ending and some would say a sad/confused man
  • Lack of comedy if you didn’t ‘get’ the style of jokes

You’ll like this if:

  • You like biographical documentaries
  • You enjoyed Kaufman’s dd humour or Carrey’s impressions

Plot

It’s a struggle between Kaufman’s aversion to complying with the status quo and real life trying to reel him back. The TV network trying to make something funny out of him, and him with his own ideas to entertain himself. Eventually, Kaufman hires prostitutes to help him get fired from the show in a ‘drunken’ song and dance.

The story only snowballs from there. Kaufman pretends to embody a funny fat aler-ego called Tony Clifton, which is the main source of comedy in this feature documentary. Eventually, we learn he was playing a prank and these are indeed 2 different people when they both appear at the same time.

Still desiring to play a good bad guy, he begins to wrestle women, before it becomes more and more personal and difficult to distinguish between act and reality.

There’s a constant battle in Kaufman, him not wanting to stick to the rules and increasingly playing the villain.

The audience is left to wonder: is this next outlandish scene for real or one of his gags? Is that person an actor or not? Wrestling, neck injuries, lung cancer…

He eventually attains his dream of playing at Carnegie Hall, after which he takes the 2,800-member audience out for milk and cookies. Eventually, he dies of the cancer after several failed treatments. Or does he?

Comedy

This is a tough one. It all depends whether or not you find Andy Kaufman funny. Most will probably find this a slightly confusing tribute to a very confusing man.

For others, it will evoke nostalgia and an entertaining 2 hours of escapism.

Verdict

Man on the Moon is more a documentary than a laugh-out-loud comedy, with its sad ending and message not to take life too seriously. The comedy is rescued by the Tony character, with his big belly and eccentric rants.

Kaufman always was 1 step ahead of the audience, exploiting the unexpected and baffling millions.

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