The Invention of Lying

Film, Comedy
2 out of 5 stars
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Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars
That a great comic idea does not necessarily make for a great screen comedy is the lesson for first-time writer-director-star Ricky Gervais as he comes unstuck in shaping a high-concept zinger into the stuff of viable romcom. Actually, co-writer/director Matthew Robinson instigated the notion of a world without lies, and the movie runs with it as far as it can, exploiting blatant truth telling in social situations and advertising to mildly amusing effect, but really kicking in when Gervais’s schlubby screenwriter protagonist utters the very first untruth to weasel his way out of a financial jam. Soon he’s prospering from the edge this gives him over the rest of humanity, but will it win him the hand of the seemingly unattainable Jennifer Garner?

It’s no giveaway to suggest that a relationship built on a lie isn’t going anywhere, which explains why the film makes a screeching gear-change from conceptual comedy to rather sickly romantic pleading on behalf of chubby middle-aged men. After peaking with a smartly subversive set-piece where the silver-tongued protagonist takes a rise out of religious faith and ‘the man in the sky’, the laughter all but dries up, exposing Gervais’s effortful performance (Garner by contrast is transparent charm personified) and his inexperience at shaping even rudimentary romcom story beats. Intermittently, the film sparkles with invention, yet seriously outstays its welcome. By which time Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Guest and Ed Norton have all popped in, paying homage to Hollywood’s supposed new Atlantic-hopping king of comedy. On this evidence, the crown’s a bit of an awkward fit.

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Details

Release details

Rated:
12A
Release date:
Friday October 2 2009
Duration:
100 mins

Cast and crew

Director:
Ricky Gervais, Matthew Robinson
Screenwriter:
Ricky Gervais, Matthew Robinson
Cast:
Ricky Gervais
Jennifer Garner
Jonah Hill
Louis C.K.
Jeffrey Tambor
Rob Lowe
Tina Fey