Friday, October 09, 2009

Film Review : The Invention Of Lying**

By guest writer Dr. P

Another big screen vehicle for the comic talents of Ricky Gervais, the Invention of Lying has been surprisingly successful at the box office on both sides of the pond. I say "surprisingly", for while this is a likeable enough film, it lacks the laugh out loud moments of many of Gervais' works.

I was accompanied to the film not by usual comic sidekick Big G but by the infinitely more glamorous "Foxy F"; on the positive side ... added wow factor, better girly giggling and a tremendous ability to get crotchety with the kids constantly running about during the film; on the negative side ... nothing whatsoever :). I did manage to get her to spit drink at one point, something Big G generally avoids ...

OK, the premise is straightforward. In a world in which lying has not been invented, everyone tells the truth, however brutal and honest that might be. There's little subtlety, either in day to day life or indeed in advertising (most of the bits I found funniest were background adverts, particularly the one for pepsi - "pepsi ... for when you've run out of coke". Gervais plays Mark Bellison, a down-on-his-luck screenwriter who is about to lose his job, and who has a fairly mundane life. We see him have a most unsuccessful date with the lovely Anna (Jennifer Garner) - "no, I won't be sleeping with him", and discover that without his job, he has little left to fall back upon.

Fast forward a short time, and there is a eureka moment where Mark suddenly learns how not to tell the truth - the world being the way it currently is, everyone believes everything everyone else says (every time, ever) - that sentence was sponsored by ever ready - and so he is able to use this power to attract girls, get money and win back his job.

Having started to gain the affections of the aforementioned Anna, Mark is suddenly confronted with his critically ill mother. He lies to her on her death bed, promising her all kinds of happiness after she dies, and saying that he knows this because he talks to "the man in the sky". He's overheard saying this, and of course within hours the whole world believes him to be some kind of prophet. It's at this point that the whole story grinds to a shuddering halt and the jokes with it ...

What started as a decent enough opening half hour then turns into a kind of preachy pseudo-religious second act, with Gervais passing on wisdom from the imaginary MITS while simultaneously continuing to try and win over Anna and keep her away from the lecherous, yet much better "genetically matched", Brad Kessler (played very well by Rob Lowe). We got quite disappointed with the remainder of the film; though the ending is quite twee and a lot fo potential themes, both comic and serious, are left unexplored. Why, for example, is Mark the only person who can lie and, more to the point, why doesn't he use it in any sort of creative way? Getting his job back and winning over the girl hardly seem massively great achievements with that sort of power.

Overall, maybe 2 stars out of 5; it was a decent enough hour and a half of a film (in lovely company), but Gervais has, can, and will do far better than this average flick. The lack of obvious chemistry between the two leads doesn't help, and their romantic relationship seems completely fake. It feels more like a dullish American sitcom episode stretched out over 90 minutes than a big screen comedy, and the experience is all the worse for that.

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