The Invention of Lying

The Invention of Lying sees British comedian Ricky Gervais once again attempting to crack the U.S. market.  Whilst the creator/star of The Office and Extras has gained a cult following, his American cinematic forays have been less successful.  Whether the transplantation of English humour into American movie making is the cause is debatable although his latest finds his noted comedic rhythm tested in a lukewarm production.
Movie screenwriter Mark Bellison (Ricky Gervais) lives in a world where nobody can lie.  Every truthful thought, no matter how hurtful, is uttered by a populace knowing no better.  When on the brink of being fired from his job, Mark suddenly gains the gift of lying.  Telling tall tales to those around him, he finds his once mundane life becomes an influential symbol to those searching for happiness.  This comes in handy when wooing Anna (Jennifer Garner), as his flair for fibbing suddenly reveals a few home truths.
One of the hardest things for an actor to do is be funny. It’s easy being dramatic and only a few have been successful at both.  Like Gervais’ performance, The Invention of Lying seems to want it both ways, with religious overtones mixed in its buffoonish humour.  Unfortunately this constant struggle ruins a potentially good premise in how fiction can sometimes bring more happiness than fact.  Gervais certainly has the ability to present this in a unique way, and occasionally scores goals.  It’s when he leans on the crutch of pure formula that the momentum sags with set ups never receiving their desired punch-lines.
Sadly for a movie aiming for the title of ‘comedy’ Invention only inspires intermittent mirth.  The third act where Mark turns into a Christ-like messiah falls hopelessly flat exposing the film’s overall forced nature.  From the dialogue to some of the acting, the natural feel so crucial to making anything believable is missing.  For all that there are some good scenes with Gervais showing some great dramatic talent.  He seems more comfortable with these sequences, perhaps suggesting a split between TV comedy and serious cinematic fare would better suit his diverse skills.
Gervais’ latest isn’t terrible although nor does it truly fly.  It stretches its concept very thinly with moments ripe for biting satire lost to clumsy writing.  Capable of raising a smirk than laughs, this droll outing may find some fans with its anecdotal pretences.
Rating out of 10:  4

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