The next film for me was the new Ricky Gervais comedy, The Invention of Lying. When I saw the previews for this I was immediately enthralled with the concept. The idea is quite compelling. We have a world where everyone tells the truth to such a degree that the word “truth” isn’t even in their vocabulary. It’s just the way it is. “Steve, your breath reeks“, “Cindy, that dress makes your breasts look deformed.” Frankly, it’s a world I would slide right into with ease (as any of my friends would point out).
Gervais’ character—beaten down by his role in this world—comes up with a novel idea. “What would happen if I…..” He’s not even sure what to call it.
The first few minutes of the movie support my initial enthusiasm but that’s about it. Beyond that the joke has already gone stale. Gervais continues to go back to the trough time and time again without changing gears.
There were countless ways this movie could have gone and virtually all of them that I can think of would have been more entertaining than the path taken. In the end we get an overly long comedy that provides a few funny scenes that are so slight that I can’t even recall them now. Contrast that to bits from The Hangover which I can still recall with clarity months after seeing it.
The acting is solid. This is the first time I’ve liked Jennifer Garner in anything. She plays the stuff would-be-girlfriend perfectly. Rob Lowe plays a perfectly despicable winner whose everyone line makes you want to reach out and strangle the guy. Gervais’ intellect-challenged best friend is played by Louis C.K. (an up-and-coming comedian we’re likely to see more of over the coming years). It’s the oddest play on Lou Costello I think I’ve ever seen.
I like Gervais and I think he can do much better than this movie. Sadly it seemed to me that he didn’t quite get the whole point. For example, there are cameos and when I say that, they’re all over the place. It’s as if Gervais wanted to show us he’s a big shot because he can get so many major stars to play goofy roles in his films (and yes, that was Ed Norton as the cop on the cycle). In the end it just wasn’t funny enough or compelling enough to live up to the potential of the previews.