Truth Be Told, The Invention of Lying Is Woefully Misguided
- Friday, October 02, 2009
DVD Release Date: January 19, 2010
Theatrical Release Date: October 2, 2009
Rating: PG-13 (for language including some sexual material and a drug reference)
Run Time: 100 min.
Directors: Ricky Gervais, Matthew Robinson
Actors: Ricky Gervais, Jennifer Garner, Jonah Hill, Tina Fey, Rob Lowe, Jason Bateman, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Edward Norton, Louis C.K.
Judged solely by its trailer, The Invention of Lying almost feels like one of Tom Shadyac's kooky comedic parables. You know, movies like Liar Liar and Bruce Almighty that star Jim Carrey and have a semblance of truth, spiritual or otherwise, nestled between an absurd premise and all his rubber-faced antics.
Now I'm no conspiracy theorist, but I'm guessing that's exactly what Ricky Gervais was going for when marketing The Invention of Lying, (minus Carrey in the lead, of course). Given that he's a Brit still trying to successfully cross over into American cinema (last year's Ghost Town was liked by a few critics including yours truly, but performed poorly from a commercial standpoint), it's best just to stick with what's universally funny to hook the audience—and then once they're already seated, lower the boom.
And that's exactly what Gervais does with The Invention of Lying, a story with genuine laugh-out-loud potential that takes a sharp, unexpected turn into serving as the actor/director's personal atheistic soapbox. But more on that in a minute. …
Set in a culture not much different from our own, but with one major caveat considering no lies have ever been told, the story gets off to a promising-enough start. Beginning with the scene the trailer zeroed in on, Mark (Gervais) has a date with Anna (Jennifer Garner), a pretty, successful but rather shallow woman who immediately lets him know in many, many words that she's out of his league.
As if her lack of anything resembling a filter didn't already harm Mark's frail sense of self, she takes a call from her Mom (yep, with him within earshot) and lets her know just how bad of a prospect he is: "He's a little bit fat and has a snub nose. And no, I won't be sleeping with him tonight … probably not even a goodnight kiss."
Turns out, these people aren't only unabashedly honest without any prompting at all, but they don't even care if what they're saying hurts people's feelings. Or borders on TMI. But I digress. …
Unfortunately, things at the office aren't much better for Mark either. He's a screenwriter (and apparently, not a very good one from the sounds of it) for a dull lecture film company since no one has the imagination for dreaming up fiction, of course. Not only do his co-workers (played by Tina Fey and Rob Lowe, respectively) hate him and tell him as much, but he's on the verge of getting fired, too. Then once his boss actually works up the courage to do so, well, Mark doesn't have enough money to cover his rent, leading to his immediate eviction.
When withdrawing the last $300.00 from his bank account, however, Mark has a major brainstorm when he's asked how much cash he'd like back. With the system down and the whole honesty culture firmly in tact, the teller will automatically believe whatever he says, so what if he fudged a little? Really, could his situation get that much worse if she rejected his request?
Well, his plan couldn't have worked out better. Even when the system goes back online a few seconds later, she just assumes it was the computer's mistake and gives him the extra $500.00, enough to prevent him from becoming homeless for another month. More than that, though, she hands him the keys to life's proverbial kingdom. And it doesn't take long for him to use this newfound discovery to his advantage.
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