On DVD: The Invention of Lying


Americans have long been ignorant of the comedic prowess of Ricky Gervais. The round- bellied Brit is the force behind “The Office” having played the Michael Scott equivalent, David Brent, on the original UK show and produced the American version. Yet to most of us he’s “the guy from the Night at the Museum movies.” His latest try to gain name recognition in the US after the failure of last year’s “Ghost Town” comes in the form of concept comedy “The Invention of Lying,” where he plays a lonely loser who in a world of truth and candidness, stumbles upon the first lie.

Such a premise is tricky territory: genius if you can pull it off, mediocre if you leave open too many holes. Creating a believable world where people say what’s on their mind all the time – – no deceit, no flattery, no withholding information — without seeming forced, would have to be difficult to say the least. Yet Gervais and co-creator Matthew Robinson manage to give “The Invention of Lying” just enough legs to be unique, funny and leave a good impression.

For one thing, you have to like Gervais’ style in order to really enjoy “Lying.” He has an “every-man” humor, kind of a reactive style that makes fun of the more aggressive characters around him in subtle ways with amusing comments muttered under his breath. For this reason his character, Mark, is portrayed as a total loser. The film opens with a blind date with Jennifer Garner, which really gets things going as what could be worse than a blind date where you can’t withhold the truth? She rips on his looks and explains why he won’t so much as get a kiss at the end of the night let alone be a proper genetic match for the children she wants to have.

Although the concept delivers some big hits, “Lying” does get a bit lost in it. It opts to explore the depths of its world of truth-telling — and rightly so, it’s interesting — but no firm story line develops. It’s more like “this is Mark, unlucky with women, about to get fired from his job, look what happens to those things when he learns he can lie.” It’s purely scene- driven and situational. I thought the movie could’ve ended at two other places until the script decides that the film is really about his love interest in Garner’s character.

That love story is okay. To go with the not lying concept, I have to say that Garner’s talents, despite her character being kind of animated, is the only reason the romance works. I’ve rarely ever praised her dramatic talents, but coupled with the character’s fluffy innocence, her realizing how she feels about Mark manages to feel real at times — surprising in a world that feels so fake because people are always saying what they think.

Maybe the best thing about “Lying” is its cameos and supporting roles. Gervais is the star, but the big names are in the rest of the cast such as Tina Fey as his secretary at work, Jonah Hill as his suicidal neighbor and Rob Lowe as his narcissistic co-worker. While I won’t spoil cameos, I will say that they’re effective in being not too over-the-top and completely unexpected.

Whenever “Lying” doesn’t lose sight of its opportunity to tell an original story because people can’t lie, it’s a really good movie. Occasionally, however, it gets a bit lost in some religious stuff, the love story and other things. It makes some key points such as how important it is that we have the ability to tweak the truth or hide it or flat-out lie, but sometimes it meanders and that’s where you have to really like Gervais’ style to enjoy the rest of the film. If you’re unfamiliar with him, this is the right film to try him out.

3.5/5 Stars

The Invention of Lying
Written and Directed by: Ricky Gervais, Matthew Robinson
Starring: Ricky Gervais, Jennifer Garner


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