REVIEW: Why The Invention of Lying’s high concept doesn’t quite work

Last night, I watched The Invention of Lying, Ricky Gervais’ high-concept comedy-drama set in a world where everyone tells the truth all the time. And I mean all the time – you just cannot shut these people up. Whether making embarrassing revelations (Jennifer Garner, as the love interest, reveals she’s been masturbating when Gervais picks her up for a date) or simply being frightfully rude (Tina Fey, as Gervais’ secretary, happily points out how much she hates working for him) it seems that not only does no-one understand the concept of lying, but the idea of TMI is entirely alien, too.

It’s a conceit that brings a good few laughs, but equally, I found it impossible to get past the idea that everyone would just walk around being as offensive to others as possible (at least within the remit of a 12A film), and so I couldn’t warm to it entirely, despite some enjoyable cameos from Philip Seymour Hoffman and Edward Norton, and a cute-as-a-button turn from Garner. It’s no surprise to learn that it ends with Gervais getting the girl, but he’s savvy enough to know that audiences wouldn’t exactly want to see him in a passionate embrace with someone so regularly described in the film as ‘out of his league’. Mind you, his self-deprecation plumbs new depths at times. We’re more than aware from his previous work (not to mention his appearance) that Gervais is tubby and has a snub nose: to be reminded of it several times throughout the film is to labour an already well-worn joke to death.

That said, it’s nice to see a film lesser talents would have turned into romcom fluff tackle subjects such as religion and death with plenty of humour. It’s become fashionable to knock Gervais, but while he’s hardly stretching himself here, this solid three-star effort has more ideas and personality than your average high-concept Hollywood comedy.

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3 comments

  1. This movie promised so much, but ultimately failed to make laugh anywhere near as much as I had hoped.

    Here’s hoping the proper Merchant/Gervais movie will be half decent. We’ve always got the Chris Morris movie to fall back on if nothing else.

  2. Yeah, it’s not funny enough, but it benefited from my lowered expectations (Empire absolutely slated it in a one-star review) and I quite enjoyed it as something a little more inventive and witty than your average Hollywood romcom.


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