FINALLY, A MOVIE about an off-putting comedian that everyone can love. For most people, this will be a great introduction to the avant-comedy of Andy Kaufman, but for those who already know a thing or two about his life and art, the movie works more like a greatest hits package, covering many of the highlights but never going much deeper.

For Kaufman, bombing on the comedy club circuit or television was more interesting and thought-provoking than getting cheap and easy laughs. Confusing the audience, or pissing them off, was more important to Kaufman than leaving them entertained. Andy never got as much hate mail as when he wrestled women, and he loved it. He had a knack for alter-egos, for channeling the dark side of his personality through "villainous" characters like the Intergender Wrestling Champion of the World, or what may be his greatest creation: Tony Clifton, the loudmouthed lounge singer with the hair-trigger temper.

Kaufman was famous for never breaking character, for obfuscating his "true" persona so completely that nobody, not even those closest to him, knew who he "really" was. This is a barrier the movie never quite overcomes, despite some top-notch talent in front of and behind the cameras. As Kaufman, Jim Carrey is eerily amazing, and it's fun to watch him recreate some of the famous bits. But if there's a guiding principle to the film, it's to let people in on the joke behind Kaufman's art -- something he would never do himself.

Ultimately, like the masked magician who gave away all those tired Vegas magic acts on FOX, this movie will have a couple of positive effects, beyond the release of more Andy Kaufman videos to the video stores. By sharing the secrets of Andy Kaufman, it should (hopefully!) inspire comedians to push the envelope, and people to remember that life is a performance, and you can make it interesting for those around you. Then again, most people are stupid.

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