Includes Digital Copy of “The Invention of Lying” for Portable Media Players
“In a world where the human race has never evolved the ability to lie, a man who suddenly discovers how will change the world. With this superpower, he can get anything he wants. Well, nearly everything.
Ricky Gervais (“Extras,” BBC’s “The Office”) displays his hilariously deadpan acting talents in a comedy invention he co-wrote and co-directed. With a star-studded cast including Jennifer Garner, Louis C.K. and Rob Lowe, plus cameos by Tina Fey and Jonah Hill, it’s explosively funny.
“The Invention of Lying” is rated PG-13 for language including some sexual material and a drug reference.
First of all, the people of this world don’t just tell the truth. They tell whatever pops into their minds, too. If the right hand column is what you think and say out loud and the left hand column is what you think but don’t say, then these people have no left hand columns. There’s a difference between censoring yourself and lying, but that distinction is not made in this world. So there are scenes where characters instantly say what they think of someone like, “I’m threatened by you.” Those can be funny. But then there are scenes where characters say, “I was just masturbating.” It ends up being not so funny. Those not-so-funny moments go on and on and make the characters come across as incredibly stupid. It’s hard to like characters that are portrayed as gullible and shallow idiots.
Second, it’s not terribly funny. When Ricky Gervais as Mark Bellison discovers that his ability to lie gives him incredible power over people, it opens things up for a lot of comedy potential. There’s an amusing scene where Mark tells his friends that he invented the bicycle, that he was a one armed pirate, and other outlandish stuff and they completely believe him. But that’s about the extent of the laughs with the premise. He fools a bank teller, helps various people on the street with lies, talks his way out of getting a DUI, and convinces Jonah Hill’s character not to commit suicide, but none of that is really very funny. I think I laughed maybe twice during this film.
The movie also veers quickly away from romance and into the realm of religion. Mark makes up stories about a “man in the sky” who controls everything, he lies about an afterlife, and he lies about how people should live their lives. The people of this world start following everything he says like people following Moses or Jesus. Gervais literally and figuratively says that religion is nothing but a lie created to make people feel better about death. There’s nothing subtle about this message or how it is delivered. Now if you’re an atheist, then this is something you not only have no problem with but you endorse. But if you believe in any kind of spirituality or afterlife (Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, etc.), then this movie is saying you’re naive, gullible, and the victim of a perpetual lie. Anybody with such beliefs would have just cause to be offended by Gervais. Warner Brothers seems to know alienating most of your global audience is bad for business because they make no mention of this religious twist in the ads or Blu-ray cover.
On the positive side, “The Invention of Lying” has some fun cameos that come out of nowhere. Edward Norton appears as a cop who gets a kick out of harassing people. Philip Seymour Hoffman is briefly seen as a gullible bartender. There are others, too. Tina Fey has a relatively minor role, but her talents are completely wasted. She’s not funny and actually comes across as a quite unlikable character.
I’d really only recommend “The Invention of Lying” to atheists, agnostics, and any person with spiritual beliefs and doesn’t mind being insulted. Everyone else should pass on this one. Besides thumbing its nose at people with religious beliefs, it’s just not funny.
There’s a decent selection of bonus features on the Blu-ray. You’ll find what appears to be a cut scene which they’ve labeled “Prequel: The Dawn Of Lying.” It shows all the cast as cavemen and the first lie that was ever told. It is narrated by Patrick Stewart, believe it or not. Also included is the featurette “Meet Karl Pilkington.” Gervais’ collaborator is shown preparing for a role as an extra in the “Dawn of Lying” segment. Rounding things out are standard extras like a “Making Of” video, Ricky and Matt’s Video Podcasts, deleted scenes, and outtakes.