DVD Review: The Invention of Lying

July 27, 2010

I find Ricky Gervais funny. He was funny on the English TV Show ‘The Office’ and he was funny in The Night at the Museum.  He was also very funny in Ghost Town. He was ok in this movie. He was the only thing that kept me from breaking the DVD player.

The plot is this: everyone can lie but Mark Bellison (Ricky Gervais).

He is a loser before learning to lie. He gets fired from his job. He has no money for rent and the woman that he has a huge crush on, Anna McDoogles (Jennifer Gardner) thinks he is too unattractive (yes, she told him that because there is no lying in this world). Then Mark learns he can lie and life changes. He can cheat at the Casinos (and get rich). He can create fiction (and becomes the most famous writer in the world). He gets everything he wants by lying: money, fame, power. Except Anna.

The movie starts off as a movie about the human condition. Gervais is a good actor and he carried this part of the movie well. But the movie moves into a movie about getting the girl. And follows a quite predictable path for the second half of the movie. In the end, I would conclude that the story was poorly conceived and poorly told.

There is a significant subplot to this movie. One of the many lies that Mark tells is that there is a “man in the sky” who has all sorts of rules. Most of the rules can be found in the ten commandments. He also tells everyone that they can either go to the good place when they die (heaven) or the bad place (hell) depending on how well they follow the rules. In short, he creates something that looks like Christianity. But it is a big lie of course. There are a few scenes of mild mocking of Christianity as well. When he tells everyone about the rules he does so on two pizza boxes that look a lot like Moses’ tablets. Later after lying in bed for weeks, he grows his beard and long hair and wears a sheet (making him look like a traditional picture of Jesus). None of the mocking was overt. It was muted enough to keep me from turning it off.

I have no idea what possesses movie executives to alienate large percentages of their audience with stuff like this. None of it was central to the plot. It was not particularly funny (yes, I can recognize funny blasphemy). Why have it?  I can only surmise that Ricky Gervais (a committed atheist who wrote the movie) was trying to make an obvious point.

Overall, the movie was a disappointment: talented cast in a movie poorly told. The movie was a bit of a bomb at the box office ($18M domestically); not surprising when you alienate most of the audience while making mediocre movie.

1.5/4 stars

(Note: I was asked by one of my Christian readers to provide warnings on offensive content during my movie reviews. I usually focus on the big picture point of the movie . Please check out the plugged in review for content details.)

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