The invention of Lying is the new romantic comedy from the creator of the original BBC series, The Office, Ricky Gervais. It uses a rather simple idea, a world where no one has ever told a lie. In this world every one is brutally up front and honest about everything. From realizing at their dates appearance how the evening will go, before even getting a chance to start, and what they were doing, with shocking detail, before they answered the door. I had high hopes that the film would steer clear of the common romantic comedy situations, unfortunately it doesn’t.
The film starts out really strong, its’ smart and funny. It has fun setting up a lie free world where every thing from TV commercials to signs on buildings are hilarious truth. There are some funny ads, Pepsi, for when Coke isn’t available, and locations with honest names, A quite place to worship the man in the sky stands in for a church. It’s nearly a laugh a minute.
As we are introduced to Gervais’ Mark Bellison he rings the door bell of the gorgeous and successful Anna (Jennifer Garner) for a date. He realizes how beautiful she is and quickly begins to accept the fact that the evening will not ultimately go well, which is reinforced when the waiter that tells him he is way out of his league. Mark goes into work the following day only to get fired, which, he had told Anna he knew was going to happen, as Anna informs him that she wishes not to see him again. Belison returns home to find himself facing eviction making a bad day worse. So he heads to the bank and requests funds he doesn’t have. The bank noticing the ‘error’ on their systems, since Mark obviously knows his balance, hands over the cash he needs for his rent. This opens his mind and soon sets Mark down a path that spirals out of control.
The cast does a fine job in the film, I just had a problem with it falling into the typical romantic comedy formula after the fun had in the first half. The lying device is used at one pivotal moment but felt like it was relegated to a second thought once setup. One thing that I didn’t realize about the film walking in was its take on religion. Failing to think that a world where every one tells the truth means death is the ultimate end and nothing comes after. The film has some pretty good fun taking a jab at religion but never quite throws the gloves off staying clear of offending. The best part is when a couple of pizza boxes become stand ins for tablets that are essentially the ten commandments of the man in the sky, that he has bestowed upon Mark to share.
There are several A-list cameos that are pretty fun but some of it felt like a bit much with the hour and 40 minute run time. 10 to 15 minutes could have been excessed without detriment to the story line. There were several bits of product placement that felt a bit out of place, while they made sense they were too obvious. The story also revolves almost strictly around Gervais’ Belison and Garner’s cute, but flappy-lipped Anna. Very little time is spent on any of the other characters. Rob Lowe’s Brad Kessler gets most of the
scene time after the two leads. Louis C.K.’s Greg and Jonah Hill’s Frank are nothing more than bit parts that don’t have much to say and just help build the world and support Gervais.
The Invention of Lying is a mixed bag. It can be highly entertaining, smart, and funny but ultimately falls into a pretty standard syrupy sweet romantic comedy formula. I think that this could help Gervais break out from his current cult following state side as the first half is entertaining enough to make it a cut above of the standard romcom affair.
I give The Invention of Lying 3 “its the same old formula in a new can” out of 5
By John Coovert