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"JAKOB THE LIAR"
(1999) (Robin Williams, Liev Schreiber) (PG-13)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Mild Moderate Extreme Heavy Extreme
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Minor None Heavy None Mild
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Minor Minor Mild Heavy Extreme


QUICK TAKE:
Drama: Despite the possible punishment of death, a resident of a Nazi-occupied, Polish ghetto relays fictitious radio accounts of Allied advances against the Germans to maintain the morale of his neighbors.
PLOT:
In a Nazi-occupied Polish ghetto during WWII, Jakob Heym (ROBIN WILLIAMS) is a former café owner who now spends his time working at the railway yard to earn meager food rations when not getting daily shaves from his friend, Kowalsky (BOB BALABAN). One night after finding himself sent to the police commandant's office for being out after curfew, however, Jakob's life changes when he accidentally overhears a radio broadcast detailing the latest Soviet advances against German forces.

The following day, Jakob discovers that his ex-boxer friend, Mischa (LIEV SCHREIBER), is tearing a hole in a freight car, a risky endeavor. To save his friend, Jakob informs him that the Russian forces aren't far away, and then lies that he knows this since he has a radio.

Although Mischa promises not to let anyone know, he immediately goes to tell his girlfriend, Rosa (NINA SIEMASZKO), but ends up spilling the beans to everyone in her home, including her father and former actor, Max Frankfurter (ALAN ARKIN). He immediately destroys his hidden radio for fear of retribution once the Nazis hear about Jakob.

Even so, word quickly spreads about Jakob's nonexistent radio, a fact he tries to deny. Yet, once he notices that the ghetto inhabitants' morale is suddenly much higher and hears from Dr. Kirschbaum (ARMIN MUELLER-STAHL) that the suicide rate is down, Jakob begins relaying false radio reports about the Allied advances against the Germans.

As Jakob continues this fake reports and broadcasts, he must contend with the fact that having a radio -- fictitious or not -- and organizing resistance movements not only puts his life in danger, but also does the same for everyone else, including that of a ten-year-old girl, Lina Kronstein (HANNAH TAYLOR GORDON), who's been hiding in Jakob's home since escaping the train taking her family to a concentration camp.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
Unless they're fans of Williams or of non-action WWII stories, it's not very likely. Those thinking this will be another "Life is Beautiful," however, may want to see it as well.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: PG-13
For violence and disturbing images.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • ROBIN WILLIAMS plays a former café owner who realizes that rumors of him having a radio is a dual- edged sword where people kill themselves or lose hope when he tells them the truth, or begin to lose caution when they believe his fictitious stories. Seeing that the pros outweigh the cons, he continues his stories to maintain the morale in the ghetto.
  • BOB BALABAN plays his barber friend who seriously considers committing suicide to escape the horrors surrounding him.
  • LIEV SCHREIBER plays an ex-boxer who non-maliciously spreads news about Jakob having a radio and continually presses him for more information or to allow him or others to hear a broadcast. He also apparently spends the night with Rosa (any sexual activity is uncertain).
  • NINA SIEMASZKO plays his girlfriend who either ends up living with him or just spending the night with him (after they become engaged).
  • ALAN ARKIN plays a former actor who doesn't want stories of Jakob's radio to fill his family and others with false hope.
  • ARMIN MUELLER-STAHL plays an older doctor who's aware of Jakob's ruse, but encourages it since he notes that the resident's spirits have risen.
  • HANNAH TAYLOR GORDON plays a young girl who comes to live with Jakob after escaping from the train taking her family to the concentration camps.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    Curious if this title is entertaining, any good, and/or has any artistic merit?
    Then read OUR TAKE of this film.


    (Note: The "Our Take" review of this title examines the film's artistic merits and does not take into account any of the possibly objectionable material listed below).


    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    The following is a brief summary of the content found in this PG-13 rated drama. Violence is extreme due to several people being killed via gunshots, while we hear of people committing suicide, and occasionally see their bodies as well as those of several other people who've recently been hung.

    Another person is tortured for information and is repeatedly dunked underwater and beaten (with bloody results). Those scenes and others may be unsettling or suspenseful to some viewers and are accompanied by a heavy amount of ominous and/or suspenseful music.

    The Nazis carrying out such atrocities obviously exhibit severe cases of extreme bad attitudes. Some limited profanity occurs, as does some drinking, smoking and a young couple sharing the same bed (although we don't see any sexual activity or nudity).

    Beyond all of that, the film's remaining categories don't have much in the way of major objectionable content. Due to what's present, however, and the fact that many viewers may mistakenly think this film will be a comedy, we suggest that you take a closer look at the detailed content listings, particularly if you're still concerned about the film's appropriateness for anyone in your home.


    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • We see some wine in an ice bucket and then see a German officer and a woman with him drinking wine.
  • Kirschbaum's wife brings out tiny shots of liquor for everyone to celebrate Jakob being elected as their resistance leader.
  • We see that a German officer had wine with his meal.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • While chasing after a newspaper, Jakob comes across several people who've been hung (and we see their bodies hanging from nooses).
  • We see a person who's either unconscious or dead (with blood on their head).
  • We see bodies being placed on a cart in the ghetto (in more than one scene) and then see what looks like a dead horse on the street.
  • A tiny bit of blood is in the corner of Mischa's mouth after he's been struck.
  • Kowalski's face is a bit bloody after a guard beats him (and later has a black eye, bruises and some scrapes on his face).
  • Jakob and Kirschbaum clean out a latrine, and while we don't see anything, we do see their strong and adverse reaction to the smell associated with their task.
  • Jakob's face is bloody while being tortured.
  • We see another person's body hanging from a ceiling.
  • We see a bloody bullet hole and the surrounding blood-soaked shirt on a person who's just been shot.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Obviously the Nazis responsible for the WWII atrocities and holing up Jakob and everyone else in the ghetto have extreme cases of both.
  • Mischa spreads the incorrect rumor that Jakob has a radio, thus endangering his friend's life.
  • Some viewers may not like a scene where Frankfurter's wife briefly appears to be performing some sort of supernatural/spiritual ceremony with other women.
  • Frankfurter and others sneak into Jakob's place and rifle through his belongings, looking for his radio (that doesn't exist).
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • Scenes including the sight of several people who've been hung (and we see their bodies hanging from nooses) or other bodies being piled onto a cart (in more than one scene), as well as those listed under "Violence" may be disturbing to some viewers.
  • Jakob and Lina must avoid being detected by searchlights as they try to sneak back into the ghetto.
  • Jakob walks in to find his friend Kowalsky preparing to hang himself.
  • A German soldier approaches as Jakob tries to stop Mischa from tearing open a hole in the bottom of a freight car.
  • A man rushes out to a freight car that's carrying people to the concentration camp. A German guard then sets his sights on him and shoots him dead (no blood).
  • After Jakob goes into a German officer's latrine to find some newspaper news, he sees that an officer is approaching and tries to prevent him from entering. In turn, Kowalsky distracts the officer, but gets a beating in return.
  • The Gestapo shows up to see Kirschbaum and then take him away. Later, when the doctor refuses to help an ailing German officer, that man states that his men will "liquidate" the doc.
  • A man takes some sort of poison and kills himself.
  • German soldiers infiltrate the ghetto and take several hostages, threatening to kill them if the owner of the radio doesn't come forward. Later, they return and round up more people at gunpoint and kill at least one.
  • A man prepares to hang himself.
  • A guard chases after Mischa and Rosa and fires at them with his machine gun.
  • We see Nazis torturing Jakob by dunking his head underwater (he's tied to a board that's tilted back into a tub) for long periods of time and then beating him, while an officer later holds a gun to his chest.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • Rifles/Handguns/Machine Guns: Carried and/or used to threaten or kill people. See "Violence" for details.
  • Fighter planes: Fly overhead Jakob and others in one scene.
  • Handgun: Given to Mischa by Frankfurter.
  • Tanks: Used by Russian forces to stop a train (by threat, not firing upon it).
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "Bastards," "Shut up," "Schmuck," "Idiot" and "Crazy bastard."
  • JUMP SCENES
  • None.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • A heavy amount of suspenseful and/or ominous music plays during the film.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • What sounded like 1 possible "s" word, 2 damns, 1 hell, and 3 uses of "Oh my God, 2 of "My God" and 1 use each of "Oh God" and "For God's sakes" as exclamations.
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • We see Rosa in bed wearing a low cut, one-piece of lingerie (that shows a bit of cleavage) and it's implied that she and Mischa have slept together. We then see him lie down on top of her and start kissing her (but nothing else).
  • When Frankfurter suddenly shows up, we see Rosa and Mischa scramble out of bed to get dressed (no nudity but implied sleeping together).
  • SMOKING
  • Some people on the street share a cigarette, including Mischa, while Kowalski and Jakob later share a cigarette (broken in half). A German officer also smokes.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • We learn that Jakob's wife is dead and he occasionally talks to her aloud while describing his problems.
  • Lina escapes from the train carrying her family off to a concentration camp and becomes orphaned.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • The Nazis in WWII and how they treated others.
  • The fact that people were willing to commit suicide to get out of their dire situation.
  • What Jakob should have done in the situation (since he notes that one man was killed for believing he had a radio, while another killed himself upon learning that no radio really existed).
  • VIOLENCE
  • While chasing after a newspaper, Jakob comes across several people who've been hung (and we see their bodies hanging from nooses).
  • We see a person who's either unconscious or dead (with blood on their head).
  • We hear that Jakob's wife was shot and killed sometime in the past.
  • Soldiers beat ghetto residents with clubs as the camera passes by this scene.
  • A German soldier hits Mischa in the face with his rifle.
  • Frankfurter smashes his own, previously hidden radio for fear of retribution from the Nazis.
  • A man rushes out to a freight car that's carrying people to the concentration camp. A German guard then sets his sights on him and shoots him dead (no blood).
  • We learn that a man killed himself after Jakob told him that he didn't have a radio.
  • A guard knocks Kowalski to the ground and then kicks him for acting up in the rail yard (he was actually distracting the guard so that Jakob wouldn't be discovered doing something illegal).
  • A man takes some sort of poison and kills himself.
  • We hear some machine gun fire, but don't know the results of it.
  • A man hangs himself (we see the preparations and later see the hanging body).
  • Soldiers break windows and then hold guns on Mischa and Rosa. A soldier then shoots and kills a person with a machine gun.
  • A guard chases after Mischa and Rosa and fires at them with his machine gun.
  • We see Nazis torturing Jakob by dunking his head underwater (he's tied to a board that's tilted back into a tub) for long periods of time and then beating him (by punching him).
  • Nazis bust through a door.
  • A Nazi holds a gun to Jakob's chest, threatening to kill him.
  • An officer shoots a person dead.



  • Reviewed September 16, 1999 / Posted September 24, 1999

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