Snappy title, great premise, Ricky Gervais script, yet only three stars? While ‘The Invention of Lying’ is certainly a step in the right direction from Gervais underrated ‘Ghost Town’, it starts off brilliantly but fails to maintain the pace.
Once upon a time there was a world where no one ever lied. Ever. People were created without the ability to spin a yarn and so lived a tact-free existence where everybody told it like it was. No PC compliments, no ‘your bum looks great’ fibs, no flattery, no white lies, nothing.
Some of the best scenes in this world include a hilarious secretary (Fey) telling her boss exactly what she thinks, a waiter insulting his customers and Garner's character telling Gervais' that he's "not very attractive" and so they won't part with a kiss, let alone anything else. Then all of a sudden, in a reverse of 'Liar, Liar', Gervais' character, a writer, realises that he is the only person who can lie. A fact that not only changes his world but the whole world around him.
A great premise and Gervais' writing is laugh out loud funny for the first 30 minutes or so. After that the cracks begin to appear. There is no way, or at best a small chance that his on-screen love interest, Garner’s character, would ever fall for his - there’s little or no chemistry between these two alleged romantic leads. She spends most of the film shallowly, albeit honestly, fearing what their children would look like and he spends the rest trying to create them.
Gervais again plays the likeable, nervous grump who uses comedy for self-preservation, but he also steps out of his comfort zone to ably pull off an emotional death scene involving a family member. The first feature film directed by the ‘Extras’ creator and his co-director Robinson, 'The Invention of Lying' begins to lose focus by the second act; by the end the film has all but crawled to a close. The satire is as its best when tackling weighty issues such as religion, politics, human behaviour and mixing them with healthy dollops of comedy. However, it really begins to unravel when faced with the sentimental pitfalls of mediocre romantic comedy.
It’s a testament to Gervais' writing/performing talent and the international success of ‘The Office’ that his projects attract such big name stars and this film is no exception, with entertaining cameos from Lowe, Stewart, Bateman, Fey and a perhaps slightly underused Hill.
Like Gervais, ‘The Invention of Lying’ is a crowd-pleaser and small details such as a lack of direction or plot development aren't going to stand in the way of this big old sentimental comedy being a box-office success.