A deceptive farce void of wit, intelligence, and depth, The Invention of Lying indubitably answers the question: is Ricky Gervais overrated?
While not his first starring role in a feature film (Ghost Town takes credit for that), ...Lying does mark Gervais’ film debut as writer/director, which makes it all the more difficult to buy into why this man is regarded as one of the finest comedians working today.
Gervais stars as Mark Bellison, a screenwriter who lives in an alternate reality where everyone tells the truth. After he loses his job and apartment, a desperate Mark inadvertently invents the lie and uses his new power to turn his life around and make the world a better place.
Cue Mark at his mother’s deathbed, where in an attempt to comfort her impending doom creates the afterlife, which in turn leads to his creation of God and religion, with Gervais posing as a con man messiah for the majority of the film.
Throughout is an attempt at romantic comedy in Mark’s pining for Anna (Jennifer Garner), a vein and unsympathetic character who rejects Mark because he is not a “genetic match”.
Essentially an overlong comedy sketch, ...Lying runs out of gas after its opening sequence, which focuses on a disastrous first date between Mark and Anna, with the latter’s admission to the tardy former that she killed time by masturbating raising more eyebrows that laughs.
Given that ...Lying is written and directed by a supposed comedy genius, that it barely raises a giggle is a punch to the gut of Gervais’s credibility.
Quickly, filler takes over substance, as montage on top of montage is presented, a smattering of ego massaging celeb cameos (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Edward Norton) fail to inspire, and rom-com clichés bore.
Rounding it out is an unsympathetically cruel pseudo-intelligent commentary on religion, which presents faith as comfort food for the starving masses, denying the fact that we are creatures wired to believe, rather than goaded into believing.
Gervais’s attempts at ridiculing faith through satire only ends up becoming an offensive caricature backed with atheistic egotism. As such, The Invention of Lying will probably be most enjoyed by those who love to ridicule the religious, and where is the inventiveness in that?