When people say that The Cable Guy was a flop, I really have to wonder what their definition of a flop is. In terms of box office earnings, it may been the worst Jim Carrey movie, but it certainly earned more than it cost to make. More importantly, it showed how Carrey could go beyond the cornball slapstick routine with no substance to something really significant and serious.
The problem, I think, is that the leap to respectability (if you want to call it that) was made far too quickly. The Cable Guy addressed some serious sociopolitical issues in a novel manner, and audiences and critics weren't ready to make the leap the movie producers were.
In Liar Liar, Jim Carrey's transition is more subtle. The relevant social problem attacked here (in more ways than one) are dysfunctional parents, and like in The Cable Guy, neglected children. Carrey plays Fletcher Reede, a lawyer who misses his son's birthday to advance his partnership application in the law firm he works at. He's defending an adulterous mother who, thanks to Carrey's prompting, feels victimised by her husband and wants half the estate and custody of their children even though she's clearly unfit to be a parent.
At the birthday party, a depressed little Max (Justin Cooper) wishes that his father would stop lying for one day. The high-energy action begins, as Max's wish immediately comes true with disastrous consequences: Carrey is immediately thrown out of his lover's bed, gets his car towed, gets slapped (literally and figuratively) now and then, kicks his own butt, and finally lands in jail for contempt of the court. You would think a premise like "tell the truth no matter what" would get tired really soon, but Carrey milks it for all it's worth with his amazing acting ability and his thousand expression face.
The most hilarious sequence of the movie (where Carrey goes nuts) is during the board of directors meeting where Carrey is forced to state the truth about the board members. The insults he delivers are standard, but done in his own inimitable style, they actually make the audience laugh just as loud as the people on the screen. Another hilarious sequence is the final airport sequence where Carrey orders a plane to pull over, which requires a tolerance for outlandish plot resolutions.
All the other actors in the movie are secondary here, though there is one situation where Cary Elwes manages to invoke some laughs with his version of "the claw". The script isn't the greatest, and even though the movie is hilarious, I really think it is a shame that Carrey has to pander to his traditional audiences before they accept him in more experimental roles. I think a wise decision was made to limit this to less than 90 minutes, and adding some hilarious out-takes at the end.
You would think that Carrey would be rid of his hyperactiveness once filming is done. The thing is that every TV interview I've seen of him involves being just as hyperactive, if not more. I am not one to idolise movie stars, but I'd argue Jim Carrey deserves all the adulation that he gets.