Jim Carrey as Andy Kaufman
Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Man on the Moon

MPAA Rating: R for language and brief sexuality/nudity

Reviewed by: Andrew Hager
CONTRIBUTOR

Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Comedy
Length:
1 hr. 58 min.
Year of Release:
1999
R

Starring: Jim Carrey, Danny DeVito, Courtney Love, Paul Giamatti, Tony Clifton | Director: Milos Forman | Producers: Danny DeVito, Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher | Writers: Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski | Distributor: Universal Pictures

Danny DeVito as George Shapiro, Kaufman's manager
Danny DeVito as George Shapiro, Kaufman’s manager in “Man on the Moon”

Andy Kaufman was a very strange man. He wasn’t a comedian as much as he was an instigator. His antics were designed to get a response—not necessarily laughter. In his time he polarized audiences with such acts as Intergender Wrestling and Tony Clifton, an obnoxious lounge singer he created. Now, his life is portrayed in a very funny movie from director Milos Forman.

As in previous Forman biographies, like “The People Vs. Larry Flynt” and “Amadeus”, the subject is a man whose personal qualities are debatable. Kaufman was brilliant to those who knew he was kidding; annoying to those who took him seriously. He believed in “theater of life” activities, and sought to generate passion about him, whether positive or negative. In the film, Andy, played by Jim Carrey in one of the year’s best performances, is shown plotting many of his antics, and we learn that almost everything he did was done to cause controversy. The results are painfully funny and always interesting.

The film starts off with a brilliant joke and continues through Kaufman’s life at a fast pace, hitting every high or low until his death in 1984. (Some people believe Kaufman faked his death, and the film gives this some consideration.) The screenplay is fluid and funny, the direction is subtle, and the acting is brilliant.

There is some profanity, though much less than most R-rated films. (The f-word is said about 9 times.) Also, there is some brief female nudity (two women’s breast), as Andy wrestles with some prostitutes. The Tony Clifton character is purposefully offensive, and his comments are brutally funny because we are not the butt of his jokes.

Andy also dabbled in meditation and faith healing, only to find that they were frauds. While he never found God, the film does show the lies of Eastern philosophy.

All in all, I think this movie is a rewarding one, especially to fans of Kaufman. However, one will have to wade through some offensive material to get to the reward. “Man on the Moon” will most likely polarize viewers in much the same way Andy did. In that respect, Forman accomplished his goal in making a tribute to the late entertainer.

Viewer Comments
I thought that this film was brilliant. I felt the R rating of this film wasn’t too hard. In fact, if you edited out the nude scene and a few swears it could have easily received a PG-13. Anyway, the film is brilliant and Jim Carrey shows us Andy Kaufman as an outrageous man who liked to shock his audience. What is interesting is that Kaufman tries to shock his audience with a minimal of profanity and raunchy humor. Rather he invites them out for milk and cookies, wrestles women, and reads the entire Great Gatsby to a college audience. Kaufman understood to provoke an action you simply have to be unconventional not profane. Carrey does such a good job with his performance that I really felt bad for Andy at the end of the film when he discovers that he is dying of cancer. Sure Kaufman could be annoying but Carrey makes him so real that we understand that a person with family and friends who loved him dearly is dying. I thought the Carnegie Hall show was absolutely magical. Kaufman’s funeral in which people sing along to a video of Andy singing is touching because it shows that these people cared for him so much that they are willing to grant his wish that his funeral be positive and not depressing. My Ratings: [2½/4½]
—Andrew, age 23
This movie is a great lesson on witnessing to that one person that’s out there searching for GOD. Sadly, Andy was looking in all the wrong places. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life. NO ONE comes to the Father but by Me” and it’s sad that Andy never found what he was looking for… Jesus. I pray that people be aware that unbelievers are searching for Jesus and that they need a Saviour; which is Christ. Andy was so close but yet he never called out to the Lord Jesus. I pray that we as Christians pray more for people like Andy. Because they are only a prayer away from getting saved. The movie itself is okay. Not one to take the kids; but one to check ourselves as believers. My Ratings: [2/3½]
—Caleb, age 20
Your reviewer writes “Andy also dabbled in meditation and faith healing, only to find that they were frauds. While he never found God, the film does show the lies of Eastern philosophy.” While the film does show that Kaufman realized the Phillipine psychic surgeon was a fraud, in no way does it point to the fradulence of meditation. His falling out with the TM movement stemmed from the negative publicity the movement faced as a result of the involvement of a controversial figure like Kaufman. …As for the film, it’s quite well done, although Kaufman’s chameleon-like character makes it hard for filmmaker Forman to get his arms around his subject. Like Kaufman himself, the film is wildly entertaining, but never quite comes together as a whole. In that way, I suppose, it’s a fitting tribute.
—John, age 35, non-Christian
“don’t expect much insight” …I came out of this film not knowing any more about Kaufman than I did when he was alive. I did get the impression that he was a big kid, however. …It is revealed that some of his biggest pranks, including a stint as a wrestler of women, were just that—elaborate, staged jokes. There is a scene where Kaufman cavorts with two partially nude prostitutes, but other than that, there is very little sex. There is plenty of foul language, and a few fist fights and wrestling matches. If you want to reminisce about Kaufman’s career, this film covers a lot of it, but don’t expect much insight into the mind of the man. My Ratings: [3/4]
—Hillari Hunter, age 38
sweet and sour …We get to see his intergender wrestling and when a phone-poll kicked him from Saturday Night Live …The acting in “Man on the Moon” is nothing short of superb. Carrey breathes life into Andy Kaufman and makes leaps and bounds above such roles as he had in “Ventura” and “Dumb and Dumber.” He impressed us in “Truman”, and now simply blows us away. The supporting characters are also extremely well-acted, from Danny DeVito as his agent to Paul Giamatti as his partner in crime. From a technical stance, this is also an excellent movie. I didn’t glance at my watch once, and even stayed until the tail end of the credits just to see if there was more. For Kaufman fans, you will probably love this movie. But don’t expect the sweet without the sour. It’s an honest movie, and Andy Kaufman (especially as his most boisterous alter-ego, Tony Clifton) doesn’t come off as a charming Robert Redford-type. …There is quite a bit of foul language, plus some brief nudity (specifically, the breasts of two different women). In addition, Kaufman’s religious beliefs that follow an Eastern meditation route are alluded to several times in the movie… My Ratings: [2/4]
—Brad D. Francis, age 17