Not Inventive Enough
The Invention of Lying takes place in a world where everyone tells the whole truth all of the time. Ricky Gervais (of the U.K.’s The Office) stars as Mark Bellison, an unsuccessful writer who is frequently called varying combinations of “fat” and “loser”. After a failed date with the beautiful Anna McDoogles (Jennifer Garner) knocks his self-esteem down a peg, Mark is fired from his job and $500 short on rent.
Mark, ready to take what little money he has and give up his apartment, arrives at the bank only to find that the computer systems are down. When the bank teller asks him how much money is in his account, the spark of ingenuity leads him to request more than he actually has. The teller, never having encountered a lie, gives him the full amount. Just like that, Mark invents lying, and he soon learns he can get anything he wants with even the most unbelievable fib.
The Invention of Lying is a perfect example what good casting can do for a movie. Not only does it have the unstoppably hilarious Ricky Gervais in both its starring role and behind the director’s chair (along with Matthew Robinson), the film also features Jonah Hill, Louis C.K., Rob Lowe, Jeffrey Tambor, and Tina Fey as a smorgasbord of brutally honest supporting characters.
Filling the romantic comedy with actual comedians rather than the usual Hollywood hunks and starlets proves to be The Invention of Lying’s biggest asset. Gervais and crew unflinchingly deliver on the laughs. Mark’s interactions with his friends, neighbors, and coworkers couldn’t get any funnier without losing the family-friendly PG-13 rating.
But while the comedic elements of The Invention of Lying go off without a hitch, the romantic subplot is less than memorable. We’ve already seen chubby everymen trick beautiful women into falling for them in countless romcoms this year alone, so why pay for it again? The movie is more than funny enough to stand on its own as a comedy, but falls flat by dragging an unconvincing romantic subplot along.
The predictable romance is made all the more frustrating by an entirely unnecessary third-reel development that serves only to muddle the film’s floundering finale. Wrapping up one storyline by starting a new one is never a good idea after more than an hour and a half, especially in a comedy. You’ll be ready to go home long before the movie’s 99 minutes are up.
The Verdict: The Invention of Lying has a three-part story when only two parts are needed. It’s disappointing to enjoy a movie so much at first, only to find yourself checking your watch through the last 20 minutes. This film could definitely have benefited from some liberal editing. The beginning may be a blast, but the film’s last reel is a sappy drag, so unless you’re a Ricky Gervais superfan or a hopeless romantic looking to lure your significant other to the theater, you may want to save your money.
1.5 stars (out of 4)