"Home Alone" meets "The Player" in a fitfully amusing romp that, if nothing else, will appeal to fans of Malcolm in the Middle and its pubescent star, Frankie Muniz.
He plays Jason Shepherd, a 14-year-old smart-aleck with a penchant for telling porkies. But his mendacity proves his undoing when he meets Marty Wolf (Giamatti), a sleazy Hollywood producer who's an even greater fibber than he is.
An unnecessarily complicated preamble has Marty steal an idea from Jason's class paper and use it as the inspiration for his forthcoming blockbuster. An outraged Jason heads for Tinseltown with friend Kaylee (Bynes), insisting Marty own up to his duplicity.
When Marty refuses, the kids subject him to a series of humiliations that make Macaulay Culkin's Kevin McCallister look positively angelic.
While Shawn Levy's frenetic farce offers some placatory homilies on the virtue of telling the truth, it's far more interested in the sadistic tricks played on Wolf.
The hyperactive Giamatti makes sure we never feel sympathy for his unrepentant scumbag, but it's hard to feel much warmth for the nominal heroes when they are capable of such calculated cruelty.
Though Bynes displays a knack for mimicry that bodes well for her future career, Muniz is too sneaky and cocky to make us root for him.
Curiously, in a movie that celebrates the triumph of kids over adults, it's old-timer Lee Majors - aka the Six Million Dollar Man - who makes the strongest impression, as an aging stuntman with his own grudge against Marty.