The Invention of Lying

Movies
3 out of 5 stars
The Invention of Lying

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Ricky Gervais’s new comedy modestly proposes a what-if scenario: Suppose humanity had never learned how to lie. The alternate universe the British comedian and codirector has concocted isn’t some Pollyannaish utopia, but a world characterized by harsh Darwinism. A rest home is named “A Sad Place for Hopeless Old People”; when our loser hero, Mark (Gervais), takes a hottie date (Garner) to a restaurant, the plain-Jane hostess greets them with “Hello, I feel very threatened by you.” Being on the “chubby, snub-nosed” end of the social spectrum, this sad sack gets little respect. It soon dawns on Mark that people will accept fiction if told with a straight face. Eureka! Then he makes up a story about what happens after you die. This fib attracts a little more attention than he’d bargained for.

Gervais initially milks such high-concept honesty and confusion to the max; a prophetic press conference, with commandments scribbled on pizza boxes, is itself a minimasterpiece of the signature exasperation comedy he perfected on the original Office series. (That Gervais has built a ha-ha premise around religion being one elaborate lie suggests he’s also got cajones.) All of which makes the movie’s eventual descent into standard sitcom territory remarkably disappointing. Will Garner marry her now-famous suitor or the resident alpha male (Lowe)? Can Mark reconcile his tall tales with the public’s need for faith? Once the sharp, clever satire gives way to what feels like a special must-see-TV episode, the movie’s promise slowly deflates. Does that seem unduly mean? Sometimes the truth hurts.—David Fear

Opens Fri.

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