THE INVENTION OF LYING is a movie written and directed by Ricky Gervais of THE OFFICE fame. The central conceit is to examine what would happen in a world where no-one was able to lie. Fictional Hollywood films would be impossible - advertising would be straightforward factual claims - there would be no sexual sub-text. Now, what would happen if one man, a loser played by Gervais, could suddenly lie? Would he use his new-found powers of manipulation to bed pretty women? Or would he tell his dieing mother that there was such a thing as the after-life, thus inventing religion.
The major problem with THE INVENTION OF LYING is that Ricky Gervais is always clever, but isn't always funny. The result is that while you want to just enjoy how clever the conceit of the movie is, you can't help but feel that you ought to be laughing more, because he's shoe-horned his movie into the form of a romantic-comedy. Worse still, the movie has a deeply earnest, After-School Special feel about it - schlubby losers are nice too. Slightly hypocritically Gervais doesn't even have the balls to follow up on his hypothesis that schlubs can date hot chicks - refusing to give the audience the pay-off of a last act kiss between Gervais and his love interest - Jennifer Garner.
The second, more minor, problem with THE INVENTION OF LYING is that Ricky Gervais is so successful in Hollywood that A-listers are queuing up to work with him. The result is a bunch of cameos that don't really make any sense, and just serve to draw you out of the film. You just sit there thinking - what is Philip Seymour Hoffman doing as a bartender? Why is Ed Norton pulling a Bostonian accent as a cop? Why isn't Tina Fey funny in this? Why isn't Jason Bateman funny in this? The combination of airless intelligence and high-amp cameos is a movie that seems, well, a little over-engineered and left me cold.
THE INVENTION OF LYING played Toronto 2009 and is currently on release in the UK and the US. It opens in Australia on November 26th and in France on March 17th.
Eventual tags: ricky gervais, matthew robinson, jennifer garner, jonah hill, louis c k, jeffrey tambor, fionnula flanagan, rob lowe, tina fey, nathan corddry, martin starr, jason bateman, christopher guest, tim suhrstedt, comedy