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Oct 19, 2009

Fletch's Film Review: The Invention of Lying

Ricky Gervais believes in a world where speaking about an invisible man in the sky that looks over us all is a lie. Regardless of how you feel about the rest of The Invention of Lying, it's probably not a stretch to assume that your overall opinion of his film depends highly upon whether or not you think that is some form of blasphemy or a beacon of truth. Unfair assumption? Perhaps, but that's what happens when filmmakers place BIG IDEAS smack dab in the middle of otherwise conventional romantic comedies (or action-adventures; just ask the makers of The Golden Compass).

Then again, that might not be the case; it (mostly) wasn't with me. My views were what ultimately brought me to Lying, yet I walked away underwhelmed with most everything but the BIG IDEAS. Despite the not-too-subtle subversiveness that Gervais is hoping to slip into this mainstream movie, the rest of the affair is the type of rote, predictable crap I'd expect from a Kate Hudson flick. Don't judge a book by its cover. Beauty is more than just skin deep. Chubby people with snub noses need love, too. Yawn.

The even bigger reason that this rom-com fails is that...well, it's just not all that funny. There are ample opportunities to tickle your funny bone that come along with the high-concept setup here, and some are played out well, particularly when Gervais' Mark is let go from his job or when he helps his friend out of some trouble with the law. In these cases, Lying feels like its spiritual (haha) antithesis, Jim Carrey's Liar Liar - a broad comedy being played as such. Cameos are made by several of Gervais' friends, with varying degrees of success. Bit players Tina Fey, Jeffrey Tambor, and Rob Lowe relish their roles as Mark's secretary, boss, and nemesis, respectively.

Yet even when the humor is there, there are problems. In a world where people simply don't lie, what compels them to be bluntly rude and/or volunteer truths that one never would in "our" world? Upon being seated at a restaurant with his date, Anna (Jennifer Garner), the waiter approaches them and states, "I'm embarrassed I work here." Was he asked how he felt about his job or how he was feeling that day? Of course not; he appears out of nowhere and volunteers the information. This might feel like nitpicking, but it happens frequently, and comes off as lazy screenwriting and playing for cheap laughs, selling out what few rules and principles the film's alternate reality has.

In the end, I was left wondering why Gervais and co-writer Matthew Robinson bothered with this truth-telling world. They created two children (a religious satire and a romantic comedy) that each needed to be fed, yet left both underserved at the expense of the other. Potential left at the altar.

Fletch's Film Rating:

Shaky Cam Rating (details):LAMBScore:
Large Association of Movie BlogsLarge Association of Movie Blogs

5 people have chosen wisely: on "Fletch's Film Review: The Invention of Lying"

Alex said...

Excellent analysis- this is basically exactly how I felt!

Film Gurl said...

I've seen other movies that have to do with "lying" and "telling the truth" - it can be a neat concept. Though, I guess like most films it's all in the execution and how it's presented. Nice review, thanks for sharing!

elgringo said...

I would have loved to see this same plot be placed smack dab in a post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie.

The Hater Nation said...

I think that it would have been a little more humorous is they had just flat out said that God did exist and that everybody was assured to go to heaven, leaving Gervais' character with this conflict of actually lying in a world where there is none? That is the direction I would have gone with.

Plus there are more things I would have snuck in, too. Like a female owner of a football team admitting that she killed her husband. But I'm am just spit balling here.

Of that George Harrison was the greatest Beattle, things like that. Do you see what I am getting at?

Fletch said...

THN - so, in your version, it would be a world of lies and Gervais would tell the truth? Interesting. I smell a sequel...

elgringo - you lost me.

Alex, FG - gracias!