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The Invention of Lying (A Movie Review)

Updated: May 27, 2023

The Invention of Lying


Starring Ricky Gervais, Jennifer Garner, Jonah Hill, Louis C.K., Jeffrey Tambor, Fionnula Flanagan, Rob Lowe, Tina Fey, Stephanie March, Martin Starr, Christopher Guest, Edward Norton, Jason Bateman and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Written by Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson.

Directed by Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson.

Distributed by Warner Bros.  100 minutes.  Rated PG-13.

Every once in a while, a comedy will come up with an idea that is so perfect, so compact, so different and unexpected that you have to wonder – will they be able to pull it off?  Will they be able to keep the inspiration up for the entire length of a film?

The first half of The Invention of Lying is as funny and smart as just about any movie this year.  Then, unfortunately, the whole thing kind of gets away from creator and star Ricky Gervais (creator and star of the UK version of The Office and Extras).

It ends up being an above-average film with a kind of weak ending – but it could have been so much more.

The whole idea behind The Invention of Lying is amazingly simple.  There is an alternate reality in which no one tells any lies.  No one would even consider it, nor would they know it is an option in life.

It is a world where everyone says exactly was is on their mind at any time – no matter how harsh or offensive it may be.  Women tell men on the first minute of a date that they are not attracted and there will be no sex.  Waiters acknowledge how pathetic their lives are to patrons.  Receptionists blatantly tell their bosses that they despise them.

It is a world where old age homes are called “A Sad Place for Hopeless Old People.”  Advertisements comprise essentially of corporate execs asking you to please buy their products.  Movies are just straight recitations of historical events read by talking heads.

Then imagine that one man realizes that he can stretch the truth.  Anything he says, no matter how outrageous, is believed because no one can comprehend that anything anyone says could not be an absolute fact.

It is a rich, fertile idea that mines comic gold for a good 45 minutes of the movie.

Then, unfortunately, the film makes two serious wrong turns, changing the movie into both a sort of mawkish love story and a slightly heavy-handed religious allegory.

However, when the film is in the zone it is dazzlingly intelligent and comical.

Alex Diamond

Copyright ©2010 All rights reserved. Posted: January 18, 2010.


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