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Scott Ventura >> Movie Commentary >> January 2000 >> Man on the Moon

Man on the Moon

Movie Commentary by Scott Ventura


Scott's Rating:
5 / 5
Times Seen:
Viewing Date:
January 2000
IMDB Name:
Man on the Moon (1999)
Milos Forman
comedy, drama
MPAA Rating:
R for language and brief sexuality/nudity.


It is crucial to acknowledge that Man on the Moon is a fictionalized biography with many aspects of truth, but certain liberties taken. With that in mind, it's exciting for me to see things I'd heard about but never seen, like the milk and cookies after a concert. Director Milos Forman has been specializing in semi-biographies for a while, including Amadeus and The People vs. Larry Flynt. He brings the right tone to the life of Andy Kaufman and presents his humor and his relentless pranking with a mix of awe and recognition of just how annoying it was to those around him.

When a big-name actor with a particularly famous persona tackles the life of another famous persona, it's understandable to expect it to be a bit lacking. Jim Carrey may have impressed in The Truman Show, but can he become Andy Kaufman? I haven't seen enough Kaufman to know. I was too young to appreciate him in "Taxi" or doing material on talk shows, so the only stuff I've seen was in specials about him on cable. I will say that Carrey is only Carrey in body, and that all of his mannerisms and vocal characteristics have gone out the window for this role. The face is still Carrey, but he's otherwise unrecognizable.


Man on the Moon includes reenactments of several famous (or infamous) moments in Kaufman's career, including his meetings with Jerry Lawler during his stint as a wrestler and his appearance on "Fridays". I can say this with certainty: Norm Macdonald is no Michael Richards. I also have trouble believing that Paul Shaffer had that little hair back then.

There is plenty of other cast trivia, though. The real-life Bob Zmuda and George Shapiro both put in token appearances. I don't recognize the name of Zmuda's character, but I vaguely remember Shapiro's. Several actors worked previously with Forman in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, including Vincent Schiavelli, Danny DeVito, Christopher Lloyd, and Sydney Lassick. Paul Giamatti was in Truman Show with Carrey, but I don't think they were ever on screen together since Giamatti played one of the assistants in the control room.


When Forman directed Amadeus, he relied on the music of Mozart for the score. Of course, that was a fictionalized biography of Mozart, so what else would he use? Forman again takes advantage of the classics, including compositions by Bedrich Smetana, Richard Strauss, Gaetano Donizetti, and Gerardo Rodriguez. Even though it's one of the most overused pieces of classical music, I would've liked a richer performance of Also Sprach Zarathustra. This is a piece that should be shaking the rafters, and even if it's the intro to another bit and being played on a dinky one-speaker cassette player, it should be huge.

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Copyright 2000-2001 by Scott Ventura. All rights reserved.