Voltaire said, “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.” In Ricky Gervais‘ The Invention of Lying, Mark Bellison does that and more. In conceiving the world’s first “lie”, he opens the door to a world of imagination and emotion. The concept is clever and occasionally funny, but the execution feels a bit off.
In watching the movie, I kept thinking about it in comparison to Gervais’ television comedies The Office and Extras. Both are set in modern-day Britain, yet their characters also seem incapable of lying. David Brent shares the “good news” in The Office that the company is closing his branch and giving him a promotion.In Extras, guest-starting Kate Winslet explains she wanted to do a Holocaust movie to better her chance at winning an Oscar (in real life Winslet won last year as an ex-concentration camp guard in The Reader). The characters’ unusual honestly is what makes these shows funny, yet when it becomes normal in this movie it seems a bit off.
I suspect part of the problem is the A-list American stars struggled with the dry, British humor. Most of the cast seemed to misread deadpan for robotic cluelessness. The only actors who seem capable of telling the truth without a straight face in the film are Gervias and Arrested Develepment alums Jason Bateman and Jeffery Tambor.
The film seems to get lost in a Monty Python-esque turn when Bellison conceives the greatest “lie”, that of an omnipotent power and an afterlife. The film also treats fat losers as a race, which as a fatty I’m not sure I’m comfortable with. I enjoyed the premise of the film and some of its more inspired jokes, but ultimately I was left wishing for more.