Ricky Gervais is one of the funniest men alive, serving as creator and star of two fantastic television shows (The British version of The Office, Extras). Already a star in his native England (I assume anyway, I’m not a follower of English pop culture), he seems to be attempting to make it big in the American cinema industry, which was good news to me.
So, when the opportunity arose to see The Invention Of Lying, a film he starred in, co-wrote and co-directed, it seemed like it would be worth my $9.50 (seriously, fuck you, movie industry!) to make a casual stroll to the cineplex to see it.
The plot of The Invention Of Lying is that society hasn’t yet evolved to the point in which it knows how to lie. This all changes when a writer named Mark Bellison (Gervais) miraculously discovers that you can say things that aren’t true, and he uses these new powers to manipulate people into giving him what he wants. Essentially, it’s like a bizarro version of Liar, Liar, except the change comes naturally, as opposed to being in the form of a birthday day wish of a crybaby kid.
My first problem (and there are many) with this movie is that while the idea of people being as brutally forthright as they are in this movie may seem funny on paper, it wasn’t in the movie. Naturally, if the primary joke of your movie isn’t working, the whole thing suffers.
It also gets horribly repetitive. We get it Ricky, you’re fat and have a pug nose face. You already did that joke to perfection on Extras, why dwell on it for an entire movie?
I was also surprised and bothered by how preachy the movie is. As the story develops, Mark falls in love with Anna (Jennifer Garner) and she starts to like him back, but can’t fall in love with him because she’s following a social rule that she can’t be with anyone less attractive than her. In turn, she sets to marry a character played by Rob Lowe, a jerk co-worker of Mark who he hates.
The notion that you should fall in love with someone based on who they are as opposed to what they look like is a perfectly acceptable notion to live by, but I think most decent people believe this to be a quality principal to live by. This message is pummeled into the skulls of the viewer, and so it quickly became annoying and turned me off.
Also, why does the fact that people can’t lie mean that every attractive woman is shallow? That wasn’t really explained.
As for the performances, the only people who gets any laughs are Louis C.K. as Gervais’ lazy oaf of a best friend Greg, and Jeffrey Tambor as his buffoon of a boss, but they only produce a few chuckles as opposed to genuine gut-busters. Garner is a pleasant screen presence, but I never really saw why Gervais’ character would be so drawn to her for any reason other than her looks.
Lastly, I was bothered and borderline stunned by some of the movies cliches. One serious musical montage is too much. By my count, this movie has four! Also, why is it that someone as talented as Ricky Gervais would think it would be a good idea to end his movie with guy convincing a girl not to marry the jerk she’s about to marry during the wedding? It was never established exactly what time this movie is set in, so I assume it must have been before the filming of The Graduate when this was still a potentially fresh idea.
This isn’t as bad as say, a Rob Schneider comedy, but because of my level of expectation I was much more disappointed at the end of this movie than I was after watching The Hot Chick. Gervais has made some of the best television comedies of recent years, and when you’ve given the world brilliance, it’s hard to be forgiving when you produce boredom.
The Invention Of Lying is a lifeless comedy full of half-baked ideas (there’s also a weird religious story about Mark telling people about a wonderful, heaven-like place you go when you die that I didn’t mention above. Had the movie been funnier, it may not have been so upsetting to see Gervais portray himself as a Jesus-like figure near the end of this turkey) and uninteresting characters.
The two people I saw it with, one of whom I know is a Gervais fan, inexplicably liked this movie, so I can’t guarantee everyone who likes his work will be as disappointed as I was. If you’re amused by the situations, you’ll likely be more forgiving of the underdeveloped story. If not, you’ll be too distracted asking questions such as “why does Mark have a picture of a dart board next to his dart board?” to care about what happens to anyone in the movie.
- A few chuckles from C. K. and Tambor
- Beneath the talent of Gervais
Final Score: 4.0/10 (Bad)