Tuesday, October 13, 2009

REVIEW: The Invention Of Lying...


I'm not a fan of the Office.

At least the American iteration.

Ricky Gervais, creator of the UK version of The Office, has become a huge name, not only in comedic circles, but in culture as a whole, as not only the Office become a huge hit with the UK version about to hit Adult Swim on Cartoon Network, but he is becoming a bigger and bigger star in American cinema, with films like Ghost Town. However, it has never really hit me the way it has for most people, particularly in my age bracket. Therefore, one can discern that I was not uber hyped to see The Invention of Lying. However, I did, against my better judgement. I really need to start listening to myself more often.

The Invention of Lying follows Mark Bellison(Gervais) who lives in a world just like our own, but no one lies there. Everyone is completely honest all the time. The film takes a look at Mark's sad life a struggling loser, and how he is insulted by his completely honest coworkers, his Mom, and Anna (Jennifer Garner), his date. His Mom gets sick, and he makes up a story about an afterlife to help comfort his Mom on her deathbed. Doctors and nurses overhear him, and soon Mark becomes an international authority on the afterlife. People camp on his lawn to learn more. Mark develops an a story about the "Man in the Sky," who functions like the G.O.D., and he pastes his theology on two pizza boxes like Moses and the ten commandments. Mark learns to lie to help his friends, get money at the bank, cheat at the casino, and hopefully to win the affection of Anna.

The real, and only star, of this film is its humor. Lying is a very funny film, and fits Gervais' patented dry and almost mean spirited comedic style, and works to great lengths. However, the true comedy doesn't really come from Gervais, it comes from the copius amounts of cameo performances, ranging from Edward Norton, to Philip Seymour Hoffman. Rob Lowe is the true star here as Brad Kessler, or bascially Rob Lowe playing Rob Lowe. He's the perfect actor to play a pretentious asshole, and it's a nice change of pace to see him do this after trying to get caught up on Brothers and Sisters, and seeing him really plum more emotional depths.

However, that's about where the positives stop.

This film has one of the most interesting premises I've read all year, if not in a very long time. A world without lying. A world without art. A world without religion. These are all ideas that are hinted at in this mediocre comedy, but ditched like a prom night dumpster baby for what is basically a paint by numbers rom-com. There is so much potential hinted at here, such as the idea of a world without religion, that films the first half of the film, but then two pizza boxes hit the frame, the shark is jumped, and the rom-com craps the bed.

That said, when the film does look at the ideas of religion in a world without lying, it does it rather well. There is a particular scene where Mark is answering questions, many of which are questions that people who follow a particular religion take for granted, but are questions that everyone asks. It's a great scene, and the only shining moment in this dull piece of cinema. The film then follows that great scene with Mark waking up with long hair, a long beard, and a blanket wrapped around him like a tunic, making Gervais look a tad bit like Jesus, and then you realize that this film isn't smart enough for the big britches that it recently signed up for.

From the outset of the film, you are introduced via a horribly written voice over, to this world, and then you meet our lead. His mother falls ill, and before she passes away, he comes up with a tale about what happens when someone dies, only to spark the first thoughts of religion. This sounds like an interesting idea right? A tale on the origin or reason behind religion with an atheist bent, that points out that the main reason that the world has a thing called religion is simply for comfort, is a film that I would love to sit down to watch. However, the film decides to fill in this potentially brilliant allegory for product placement, and a rom-comn storyline.

And that's where the film mainly fails. The romantic side of the story is completely and utterly pointless. There is a scene where Gervais' character points out the reason why he likes his love interest, even calling her the sweetest person he knows, yet, the viewer is shown nothing of the sort. She is shallow, self-conscience, and pretentious, simply looking for a "good genetic match", completely tossing Gervais to the side. There is no connection to the couple by the audience, and as an audience member, not only did the fail to get me connected, the missed many opportunities to make the love story itself an interesting take on lying.

The screenplay is schlocky, Gervais is completely one note in his performance, Jennifer Garner is even worse, and the direction may be some the most awful that I've had the displeasure of seeing this year. The film also gets the world it sets itself in a bit awkwardly toned. Instead of being a world without lying, the writers have created a world where people have no self control when it comes to what they say. Instead of simply not lying, people in this world say the first thing that pops into their head, which makes much of the comey, but also makes the world feel overly awkward, at least in the writing.

All in all, this film is just not very good. Great, brilliant premise, but it has the execution of the Lions offensive line, and the film is even worse the longer I'm away from it. Just please skip this thing.

THE INVENTION OF LYING - 3/10

Go see something good!

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