The Invention of Lying ** (out of ****)

Directors: Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson
Writers: Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson
Cast: Ricky Gervais, Jennifer Garner, Jonah Hill, Jeffrey Tambor, Fionnula Flanagan, Rob Lowe, Tina Fey
Rating: PG-13 (language, including some sexual material, and a drug reference)
Running Time: 100 min
Release Date: 10/2/09

The Invention of Lying is based on the novel concept of a world in which no one has ever lied! While this concept sounds good at first, it results is a very gloomy world as this film presents it. From the outset when Mark (Ricky Gervais) arrives at Anna’s (Jennifer Garner) apartment for a date, we get a quick introduction to how different this world is. In addition to very frank admission to what she was doing before he arrived and in fact continued to do while he was waiting, she soon told him this would be their only date, and that she really didn’t find him attractive, etc.

Mark is a TV writer who is about to be fired which everyone knows and pointedly remarks at every turn. It seems that in a world with out untruth, Mark’s is the writer for program about the 13th century which was notably unpopular. You know, black plague and all of that! His secretary (Tina Fey) informs him that she has stopped taking messages for him because of this impending dismissal. Soon everyone including Mark was soon proven correct which he was in fact fired.

Now finding himself unemployed and having only $300 in the bank, he is unable to pay his landlord the $800 monthly rent. It seems that he wasn’t any more successful at financial management that with his job or his love life. So he goes to the bank to withdraw his last $300 when the teller informs him that the computer is down. At this point he gets a genius idea for his culture. He says that he has $800 in his account. Since this society has no concept or even word for lying, the teller believes him so much that when the computer comes back on line she thinks that the $300 balance is a mistake. She gives Mark the $800.

After a few more tests of his new discovery, he soon finds that he is a master of his domain. Friends can be made to believe he invented the bicycle, women can be lured to bed with the claim that the world is coming to an end, and police can be talked out of DUI arrests. He soon creates a fictional script and gets his job back. Anna even becomes a friend but still won’t marry him because of his looks. But, then his mothers who lives in a “Sad Place Where Old People Go to Die” known to us as a nursing home is in fact about to die, he tells a story to comfort her. The medical staff over hear this and by the next day a crowd and TV crews surround his apartment.

At this point the movie degenerates into an uninspired diatribe against religion. The assembled crowd demands that Mark let them know what he knows about the afterlife. So he emerges like Moses coming down from Mount Sinai with the key points written on two pizza boxes. Ouch! The comedy portion of the movie is over. And, I though this was a comedy? I guess Bill Marr fans may think this is a hoot but it isn’t nearly as cleaver as Gervais and Robinson think it is.

The Invention of Lying ultimately fails as a comedy because its one-trick pony joke wears thin after the first half of the movie. Once it gets into a not too subtle and not very sophisticated attack on the basis of theistic religions it become a little painful to watch. It’s always good to see Jennifer Garner. While her performance flows naturally her character isn’t too appealing and in fact no character in the film is appealing. This celebration of the virtue of lying falls flat.

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