Review: The Invention of Lying Should Have Been Funnier

"It's not so much actively offensive as it is passively boring."

 

I'm an unabashed Ricky Gervais fan. You simply can't bash me on that front, as I adore the original BBC Office, I enjoy Extras, heck, I even thought Ghost Town was severely underrated. But The Invention of Lying? No, not really for me, thanks. A bit like watching your best friend run headfirst into a wall. You want to be there for them after it's all over, ready to call the EMTs, but as they pick up speed toward that wall you get that sick feeling in your stomach. "Don't run into the wall headfirst!" you shout out as the smack assaults your ears.

Gervais, as the title indicates, discovers he can lie in a world that doesn't have anything resembling deceit. Everyone is always honest (they don't mention how people get elected) and imaginations are creepily limited. For instance, films are read by "readers" instead of acted out on film as evidently people couldn't even pretend to be something they aren't. The original premise isn't completely shabby, and the initial half hour of the film passes smoothly enough.

But then, out of nowhere, this somehow becomes a referendum on religion. This could have been funny also (see: Brian, Life of), but everyone seems too unwilling to take sides. It's almost as if Gervais had a real skewering planned, showed the script to the studio, and they said, "Hurm, about this "There is no God" thing..." Because the film doesn't really say anything at all, and it doesn't say it while also not being funny. That seems like poor form from a comedy, no?

So the thing (The Invention of Lying) devolves into this odd romance between Jennifer Garner and Ricky G. Rob Lowe is also somewhat involved. At one point Gervais goes for a crying scene and it's jarring in its awfulness. Cheetahs were meant to run and Ricky was meant to make us laugh. Seeing him attempt to channel his inner Phil Hoffman (who makes a cameo) is dispiriting. But even that would have worked if the movie attempted a "joke" in the last hour of its running time. It's not so much actively offensive as it is passively boring.

I suppose all of this proves that even the ones we love can let us down. Gervais is funny in interviews, he's funny on his shows, he's funny in the trailer for The Invention of Lying. Where he's not funny is in the movie he helped write and direct. Go figure. But if you get a chance to see Ghost Town maybe check that out instead. No sense souring your view of Ricky over one little mistake.

Grade: C-