Let’s take a look at the ledger for The Invention of Lying, a better-than-average romantic comedy, but also a movie that lacks the courage of its convictions:
On the plus side, the movie has ambition. Ricky Gervais tackles religion, societal values, and other Big Questions with wit and charm in a story about a fantasy world in which nearly everyone speaks the truth. The comments people make to each other are biting and very funny. Also, Rob Lowe is an underrated comic actor; every scene he appears in adds spark to the proceedings.
On the negative side, Gervais (who cowrote and co-directed) undermines his own premise. Gervais is saying we shouldn’t “judge a book by its cover,” yet his attraction to the female lead (Jennifer Garner) is apparently based solely on her looks. Why else would he crave such a vapid, shallow woman? And, after raising provocative questions about the very nature of existence, The Invention of Lying wraps up with a standard Hollywood ending, church scene and all.
I give the movie high marks for its clever humor — usually in the form of deadpan asides made by bit players — and for the charm of its cast. But I’d be lying if I said it was a masterpiece. Grade: B
Directors: Ricky Gervais, Matthew Robinson Cast: Ricky Gervais, Jennifer Garner, Rob Lowe, Louis C.K., Tina Fey, Christopher Guest, Jeffrey Tambor, John Hodgman, Jonah Hill, Stephen Merchant Release: 2009
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