It's The Best Film You'll Ever See
In a world where lying has never been discovered, one man abruptly discovers he can use this miraculous skill. That's it, really. There's a general plot about getting the girl, some heavy handed religious commentary, and the message that our mere physical appearance does not determine who we are, or control our fate. In essence, that sums up the film.
Okay, hands up, I admit, I've never been a Ricky Gervais (TV's The Office, Night at the Museum, Ghost Town) fan. I never understood what was so funny about The Office, and he's usually been annoying in his various film cameos. However, around the same time last year he released his first Hollywood film, with himself as the star. It wasn't a ground breaking hilarious comedy, but it was far less annoying and obnoxious than it could have been, and was surprisingly under-stated in places. I actually started to warm to Gervais (Or at least the character he played). The film had a general atmosphere that was easy to warm to, and made a change from the usual slapstick of most Hollywood comedies of recent years.
In comparison, The Invention of Lying isn't bad, but it certainly doesn't rise to the level of Ghost Town, which itself was merely a smile inducing romantic comedy. The premise is interesting enough, but you can't help feeling that while the ramifications of lying in such a world are quite well explored, a lot of the associated potential humour is completely missed.
Unfortunately there are two glaring elements that really do not sit well, within the context of the story. Firstly, the mere inability to lie does not mean that people have to blurt out inconvenient truths. Even in our own world, there are people who try not to lie, but that does not always mean they have to volunteer hurtful truths. It could be argued that in a world where lying is impossible, this tendency has become part of human nature, but in the context of the story it often seems merely silly.
Secondly, why does the simple fact of a world without lying, mean that people only feel they can be partnered with those of equal physical appearance? Wealth, power, money, personality, decency, what-have-you, would surely all be of equal lure to potential mates, as they ever are. If an individual genuinely falls in love with another who is powerful, successful and uniquely skilled, why would they choose another who they do not like, simply because of physical superiority? It doesn't make logical sense that a world without lying must necessitate a desire for genetic purity. All it implies, is that the character is shockingly shallow, and therefore undeserving of our sympathy or care. As a result of these two factors, the film often doesn't quite seem to gel.
On the acting front, Gervais is still less annoying and obnoxious than his Office persona, but only just. He starts to yet again overdo his 'half-finished-sarcastic-sentence' form of acting. Jennifer Garner (TV's Alias, 13 going on 30, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past) is the romantic lead, and as lifeless as ever. She plays her role with pedestrian style, always doing the job, but never becoming likeable or interesting.
I didn't hate The Invention of Lying. It is still pleasant to see a Hollywood-backed comedy that doesn't rely on slapstick, and doesn't shove every 'funny' moment in your face. Having said that, The Invention of Lying is simply an amusing enough viewing experience and nothing more. An interesting idea, largely undeveloped.