"The Invention of Lying" DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review (2010)

1/21/2010 Posted by Admin

DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review

"The Invention of Lying"

Directed by Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson, Written by Gervais and Robinson, 99 minutes, Rated PG-13

By our guest blogger, Rob Stammitti

What would the world be like if people were completely uninhibited and truthful? Ricky Gervais, co-creator and star of "The Office" and "Extras," along with Matthew Robinson has set out to figure that out with "The Invention of Lying," a film about such a world and what happens when one man finally does begin to lie.

That man is Mark Bellison (Gervais), an unsuccessful writer in this truthful world who discovers one day that he can say things that aren't so. He starts simple--some brain cells fire up while he's at the bank and he finds he's capable of withdrawing more money than he actually has at the bank. He soon finds himself lying to win at gambling, and eventually, he finds success by writing the world's first fiction screenplay. Of course, everyone believes him, as they're used to saying things as blatant as "I find you unattractive, we won't be dating again" and "you're untalented and I'm trying to build up the courage to fire you without feeling bad."

This is the kind of high-concept film that could thoroughly fail in the wrong hands, but Gervais, who has displayed immense talent with both of his acclaimed British television series, balances harsh and biting social satire with real heart.

That said, the film will be incredibly polarizing due to Gervais' primary theme--that in a world where no one tells lies, religion doesn't exist, and Mark Bellison creates it to comfort those unhappy with their lives. It hardly comes out of left field--Gervais discussed the topic before on "Extras"--but it's sure to bug a lot of people to hear him call all of religion a lie. If you're able to have a sense of humor about it, however, it is incredibly funny to watch Gervais walk out of his apartment building to hundreds of people carrying two pizza boxes with 10 commandments on them. In this respect, the film is very reminiscent of "Monty Python's Life of Brian."

Gervais himself gives a subtle and sweet performance as Mark, and he's surrounded himself with plenty of other talented comedic actors, including Louis C.K. as his loser best friend, Jonah Hill as his suicidal neighbor, and Rob Lowe as his cruel co-worker. There also are numerous cameo appearances from the likes of Philip Seymour Hoffman, Edward Norton and Gervais' "Office" co-creator Stephen Merchant, all of which are hysterical. Gervais' first-time direction is also quite good, though he uses musical montages a bit too much, likely a result of his being used to using them on television, where it's less cliched.

Unfortunately, the film is hindered by a poorly implemented romantic plot. Jennifer Garner plays Anna, the woman of Mark's dreams who wants nothing to do with him because of his lack of financial success, unattractiveness, etc. Throughout the film, her character is unlikable, not really due to Garner's performance, which is adequate, but because of how she's written quite basically as a very shallow and arrogant person. For some reason, though, we're expected to root for Mark as he attempts to romance her, which is made nearly impossible with her personality being so rigid and irritating every step of the way.

Ultimately "The Invention of Lying" succeeds in many ways and fails in others, but as a nice bit of warm-hearted satire it works splendidly and Gervais' performance is great enough that he can carry the film despite its weak points. Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable comedy.

Grade: B-

View the movie trailer and a clip from "The Invention of Lying" below.  What are your thoughts?

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