Saturday, January 07, 2012

The Invention of Lying

PCMR Verdict: Unashamedly intellectual, and admirable for being so, but it's not very funny.

Honestly, I might have chuckled only a couple of times, which is pretty unforgivable considering the cast of this movie.

PCMR Rating: 5/10

Love him or hate him, you have to admire Ricky Gervais' work ethic. The Office made him a household name, and the syndication will guarantee him financial rewards for the rest of his life, but since then, he's done a few successful stand-ups (Politics, Animals, Fame, Science), made Extras, another successful TV Series (which PCMR controversially prefers to The Office), developed a children's book called Flanimals, which will now also be made into a TV series. His record breaking podcast with regular collaborator Stephen Merchant and best mate Karl Pilkington has been made into an animated HBO Series, and spawned an excellent spin-off series called 'An Idiot Abroad'. And most lately Gervais' gleefully irreverent appearances as the host of the Golden Globes have copperfastened his global celebrity status.

Somehow, with all of this going on, Gervais has also managed to make a couple of Hollywood movies. Now, not all comics can survive the jump to the big screen, so this is a bold move for Rick. The most obvious comparisons to draw from his foray would be with the attempts of Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock. Although this duo have enjoyed huge success on television and on stage, their Hollywood careers are not exactly glittering, so the expectations for Ricky are probably not too high.

Low expectations or not, Gervais' first attempt at a Hollywood movie is a bit of a mess. The premise is so straight-forward, it could apply to a Jim Carrey vehicle: it can be easily Hollywood Pitched in the gravelly trailer man voice. Just like this. (Ahem).

In a world.
Where everyone tells the truth.
One man.
Has just invented...
The LIE.
*cue hilarity*

The movie certainly starts out on those lines, but unexpectedly, in this lie-free, truth-only world, people don't just avoid lies, they constantly blurt out painful home truths about themselves and others. Indeed, in the opening scenes, Mark Bellison's (Gervais' character) first date with Jennifer Garner is punctuated by painfully honest observations on everything from masturbation to Gervais' slim chances of a second date.

However, after inventing the lie, Gervais suddenly finds himself in a world of gullible fools who will believe anything he says. Then, he finds that he can tell little white lies to make people feel better. Each of these revelations present their Bellison with different dilemmas.

Gervais' script diverges from the Hollywood premise rather sharply however, when he lies to his mother on her deathbed about the existence of heaven. Some doctors and nurses overhear, are amazed, and demand to hear more about the existence of this magical place. Bellison becomes an overnight celebrity, known for having a direct line to the 'man in the sky', and the movie enters a more philosophical act.

Gervais actually has a degree in philosophy, and the ideas in 'The Invention of Lying' are good ones. You can only admire his genuine attempts to make a smart movie, rather than opting for the easier, more lucrative Adam Sandler route. The only problem with his execution is that I sat down in front of this movie expecting a good laugh, and there isn't enough comedy to balance out the clever ideas. The movie can only be disappointing as a result.

I certainly admire Gervais' ambition with this movie. He recognises that he needs to do more than just be funny (which by itself ain't easy), that he needs to leave the audience with something to think about. The only problem with this movie is that the balance favours philosophy, and comedy is neglected as a result. So, next time, more comedy please Rick!

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