Rated PG-13 for language including some sexual material and a drug reference, 100 minutes
Original but thin "The Invention of Lying" has some fun moments
"The Invention of Lying" is a high-concept comedy with an original premise but a weak plot and thin story. There are some engaging moments along the way, unsurprising that its star, co-director and co-writer is British comedian Ricky Gervais (he created the U.K. version of "The Office"). Given that many might find a mixture of romantic comedy and religious satire an awkward one (it is), its appeal may be limited.
"Lying" is a comedy set in a world where no one can tell a lie and you know exactly how everyone feels. Gervais a hapless, single screenwriter named Mark who has trouble with relationships, to say the least. He goes on a date with the beautiful and successful Anna (Jennifer Garner), who isn't attracted to him. His secretary (Tina Fey) despises him, and he is generally unliked by his co-workers, including Rob Lowe and Jeffrey Tambor. Then one day Mark realizes that you can actually lie, and people will believe it. He becomes rich, successful and popular the world-over telling lies that he feels people want to hear.
"The Invention of Lying" is a fun comedy that is funniest when it stays focused on its premise and people tell the truth. When it veers off into romantic comedy and other subplots, it loses focus and humor. Gervais is a genuinely funny fellow, though, and its because of him that the movie works as well as it does. Just know that the tone may be viewed as sacrilegious and offputting to some, but it skewers all religions (Gervais, by the way, is an athiest, if that wasn't obvious). His version of "the Ten Commandments" is written down on a couple of pizza boxes, if that gives you any idea how all this works.
Gervais and Garner have good chemistry, but one mistake that Gervais makes is loading the film down with too many cameos and stunt casting parts. A load of actors including Edward Norton, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Guest and Jason Bateman all have walk-ons, some more successful than others (Hoffman - funny, Norton - not funny) while a load of other immensely talented actors are underused, especially "30 Rock's" Tina Fey, who has loads of good one-liners in a small role as Gervais's secretary ("You don't have any messages because I told everyone you were getting fired," she says.)
The mix of romantic comedy and religious satire in "Lying" is an uneven one, and the romantic comedy scenes don't really fit; it would have worked better had it focused strictly on the no-lying premise. Gervais is a talented, award-winning comedian, though "The Invention of Lying" isn't one of his better efforts. This may be for hardcore Gervais fans only, which is a limited appeal at best.