Published Sep 18, 2009Ricky Gervais continues his attempts to break into mainstream Hollywood pictures with The Invention of Lying, where he serves as co-writer, co-director and star. Set in a world where no one is capable of telling a lie, Gervais's Mark Bellison is a sad, single, soon-to-be unemployed screenwriter of boring historical stories.
In a moment of desperation, he discovers within himself the ability to lie and invent fiction, and finds he can suddenly dramatically improve the quality of his life. He gets close to the girl of his dreams, Anna (Jennifer Garner), who had previous rejected him outright. He finds fame and fortune as a screenwriter, and even uses his lying for the powers of good by providing comfort to all those around him.
Things spiral out of control for Mark when he accidentally invents heaven and religion, and the world starts looking at him as a prophet. Apparently, lying can't solve all his problems, as he faces an angry backlash from the public and risks losing the girl to his arch-nemesis (Rob Lowe).
The film starts out quite well, cleverly setting up a world without lies. There are lots of good gags and smart observations, as well as a ton of celebrities in cameos and bit parts (Tina Fey, Jason Bateman, Edward Norton, Philip Seymour Hoffman) that are clearly having fun with the overly honest material
It's a limited premise, however, and when the film changes focus to the romantic storyline between Mark and Anna, it gets a lot less interesting and more predictable. Even in this face-value world, Garner's Anna comes across as incredibly shallow, while Gervais, who is at his best when not taking himself too seriously, has to try a little too hard to be a likeable romantic lead.
There are too many moments of overt sentimentality coupled with too much swelling music, and the film takes a long time to reach its obvious conclusion. (Warner)