When one first thinks Ricky Gervais, one thinks hee-larious. Gervais, in this humble narrator's opinion, is easily one of the funniest people alive - or dead even. The true originator of The Office (American audiences get to see the funny - but not nearly as funny - Steve Carrell in the part originated by Gervais) and possibly the funniest guest a talk show could ever dream of having, Ricky Gervais was inevitably destined to take his many talents to the big screen. And thus he has. After starring in the old hollywood-esque Ghost Town last year, Gervais becomes the quadruple threat and acts as writer, director, producer and star in the new film, The Invention of Lying. Unfortunately for us - and for Mr. Gervais I suppose - The Invention of Lying is a letdown. A radical letdown when considering how drop dead funny that quadruple threat is in almost everything else he touches.
Even more radical when one considers what a unique idea the whole film is to begin with. The story of a world, on the surface much like our own, that has never known anything but the truth. No one has ever told a lie. The premise has the potential to work as hee-larious farce and possibly even hee-larious socio-political satire, but alas, we are to have none of that. Getting off to a fine start, Gervais' schlubby screenwriter Mark heads out on a first date with Jennifer Garner's successful, beautiful Anna only to find himself the butt of every snide remark she can come up with. But this is to be expected in a world where everyone says exactly what is on their minds. Eventualy Gervais' hapless screenwriter stumbles upon what will become the first lie in recorded human history. This is where the mayhem should rightfully ensue. Unfortunately (again) for both we the viewers and Gervais the quadruple threat, this unique premise - and this potential ensuing mayhem - ends up going nowhere but in the direction of typically cloying, mainstream rom-com territory.
Gervais himself manages to keep things going just about as far as they can go (both Rob Lowe and Jonah Hill are wasted in what could have - and should have - been show-stealing roles) but eventually the film falls into a chasm of predictability and standard by-the-book situational comedy. The ideas of all cinema being nothing more than "actors" reading historical stories off TelePrompTers until Mark "stumbles" across a lost historical manuscript, should have been the start of something big in this film, yet it too falls flat. The only portion of the film that actually works the way it should is when Mark invents God and turns himself into some sort of unheard of Christ figure. Other than that though... Luckily Gervais is still funny throughout most of the film. Luckily too, no matter how fall the film falls, it never goes so deep into the chasm as to completely fall apart. Not completely. [10/27/09]