When we saw that one of our favorite comedians was releasing a high concept comedy, we had to send Bobby "Fatboy" Roberts to check it out for us. In doing so, we saved $10 ...
The Invention of Lying is NOT an incisive parody of religion. Nor is it a mean-spirited treatise against those who believe they'll go to Heaven if they stop jerking off so much. It doesn't try to make the point that religion is the Invention of Lying, because regardless of what some uptight assholes who haven't even watched it may say, The Invention of Lying is basically a mediocre Jim Carrey comedy that just happens to have Ricky Gervais in it.
The much complained about "anti-religion" angle that has insecure zealots shitting communion wafers is barely there.
You can't blame co-writer, director Matthew Robinson for promising it was going to piss people off. Audiences are more likely to go see a salvo in the war between believers and skeptics, than a comedy with the log line: "Ricky Gervais cons Jennifer Garner into fucking him." But that's the plot of the film in a nut shell.
In a slightly larger nut shell, Gervais plays a loser who lives in a world where humankind never developed "the lying gene." As such, brutal honesty is the rule of interpersonal communication. The funniest moments come from watching people deadpan really rude shit right into Gervais's quietly shocked face, and then enjoying the second or so it takes for him to absorb it.
Gervais gets fired and evicted, and when he goes to the bank the next day to withdraw everything he has left, something in his brain snaps, and he develops the ability to lie. He then uses this power to clumsily combine the plots of Yes Man, Liar Liar and Bruce Almighty.
Not that there's a lot of punning going on in the film, but based on the Rotten Tomatoes reviews, the film was a bonafide hit with the pun-loving demographic:
The film wings celebrity cameos at you like Nolan Ryan. After the first two, I was like "OK, that's sorta clever." And then there was another and I was like "stop throwing celebrities at my chin, Ryan." And then there was another, and I charged the mound impetuously, only to have Nolan Ryan put me in a headlock and beat my face with every single famous friend Ricky Gervais ever bumped into at Ralph's. For example:
Very Cool Actors, Hollywood Stars, People of Note and jonah hill who pop up in The Invention of Lying
Martin Starr, Tina Fey, Rob Lowe, Jeffrey Tambor, Louis C.K., Philip Seymour Hoffman, Edward Norton, Christopher Guest, John Hodgman, Jason Bateman and Jonah Hill.
Very Cool Actors, Hollywood Stars, People of Note and jonah hill whose cameos and supporting roles aren't distracting annoyances.
Just kidding, fuck that guy. Jason Bateman is the goods, and so is Martin Starr. Everyone else might as well have just waved at the camera and said, "Remember me from other, funnier projects? I hope the goodwill you're feeling at seeing my face is enough to get me through this scene, because that's all you're fucking getting."
There's about four good gags, but it rarely gets its comedy and its atheism mixed up. When Gervais finally nuts up and puts his anti-religion cards on the table, he plays it totally straight, with a surprisingly effective but totally out-of-place tearjerk scene, dramatic piano chords clanging in the background, camera doing slow push-ins on Gervais's anguished face and the fat tears catching in his eyelashes.
There's no focus on display. No sharpness. It's all gauzy, gentle ribbing and slow, maudlin displays of unearned emotion. The movie looks and moves like a goddamn Thomas Kinkade painting on clearance at Target. I know Gervais can do better. I certainly didn't expect him to make a weak sister companion flick to both Bruce Almighty and Dogma, but that's what's on the screen. The only controversy worthy of the breath wasted on this movie is how someone so talented and incisive could make something so toothless and bland.