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Jakob the Liar (1999)



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On the heels of Life Is Beautiful comes Jakob the Liar, a story about a Jew who, partly by choice and partly by circumstance, becomes the source of hope to other Jews in the ghettos of World War II Germany. He has a radio, so he says, and he relates made-up news bulletins about the imminent defeat of the Nazis.

The film was engaging enough to watch but ultimately forgettable, although I can't place my finger on precisely why. The central story seems to be handled skillfully. Maybe it's because the movie spreads itself too thinly around the edges; there are certainly a number of subplots that don't particularly go anywhere. Maybe it just lacked something more to say. It's a story about hope, but what about it?

Robin Williams plays Jakob, the lead, and does a fine job. It's interesting to see an actor more famous for his comedic work continually working such wonders with dramatic roles. Although his work here is hardly up to that in Awakenings and Good Will Hunting, for example, his performance keeps the movie together when it would otherwise fall apart.