Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Invention of Lying (2009) - Laying It on Thick

On the Menu: THE INVENTION OF LYING (2009); Blockbuster Rental DVD

Ingredients: Ricky Gervais, Jennifer Garner, Rob Lowe, Louis C.K., Tina Fey, Jeffrey Tambor, Jonah Hill, Fionnula Flanagan, Christopher Guest and Jason Bateman. Directed by Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson. Run time: 99 minutes. Rated: PG-13.

At First Bite: I think Gervais is very funny, and I've only seen GHOST TOWN and maybe four episodes of "The Office." I should work on that. He directed "The Office" and "Extras," but this is his directorial debut as far as feature films go. The first time I heard anything about this movie was when Gervais was plugging it on "The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien." It was the interview where he poured his water over Conan's head and took a picture of him with his phone. He told Conan about how he lured Philip Seymour Hoffman to be in the film with an email. The email read as follows:
Dear Philip, will you please appear in my new film? There is very little money involved as I spent the budget on testicular implants, but don't look upon them as my testicles, look at them as our testicles.
It had that email working for it, and the concept was brilliant -- A man, living in a world of only truths, stumbles upon the ability to lie.

Gervais plays that man. His name is Mark Bellison, and he's generally unlucky. His mom is sick and he's in love with a woman who is way out of his league, Anna (played by Garner). He works as a screenwriter. He's not a very good one though, and everyone at work seems to hate him, especially his secretary (Fey) and the company's top writer, Brad (Lowe). Brad is the anti-Mark; he's rich, handsome and conceited. So, right away we've developed the sympathetic hero, the love interest and the villain. Halfway through the worst day of his life, Mark's brain flickers and he discovers he can say something "that wasn't." This is where the real fun begins. How could you explain what happened? What would you do with the power?

The movie is littered with self-deprecating humor and sprinkled with sexual humor, but the real genius might be the religious satire. There is no such thing as religion in this world, which has been a point of contention on some internet message boards. Well, some people are just way too touchy. It's a movie.

Tough to Swallow: There's a strained, frown-like expression Jennifer Garner has when expressing her character's true feelings. I think I understand why (she's always just said what's on her mind without thinking), but sometimes it's hard to watch. The whole romance angle, in general, was a little off for me. I would have liked to have seen more of Tina Fey, despite her character being so brutally honest.

And, once again, I'm going to harp on the crap rental DVDs from Blockbuster. No special features here. I've heard there are some great extras on the actual DVD. Also, I couldn't skip past the previews to go directly to the menu. I had to hold down the fast forward button through at least four trailers. I'm not lying. What a pain in the butt that was.

Something to Chew On: I've already mentioned Philip Seymour Hoffman and the email. I listed Jason Bateman in the ingredients, but there's another big cameo in the film. I won't spoil it. It's great though.

The chapel used for the wedding sequence is the same one featured in GHOSTS OF GIRLFRIENDS PAST; Garner's character was the one getting hitched in both movies.

This is Gervais's directorial debut (film).

Gervais is directing another film, CEMETERY JUNCTION, which is scheduled for release this year.

The film currently has a 6.5 user rating on IMDb.com (12,802 votes).

Sides: This particular DVD had zero.

Aftertaste: It's cleverly written, and the actors do a wonderful job of delivering the cold, hard facts with straight faces. As far as movies dealing with God complexes go, this is leaps and bounds better than BRUCE ALMIGHTY and its sequel. Those movies were a tad outlandish and I didn't feel anything for the protagonist. THE INVENTION OF LYING gives its unattractive hero wit, charm and compassion. I liken it more to GROUNDHOG DAY. But, be warned, if you're a religious zealot without a sense of humor, you might be offended by the film's take on religion and God. Otherwise, it's great if you want sit back and laugh. That's the honest truth.

Rating:
 


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