Why Is “The Invention Of Lying” So Terrible?


I never saw the original UK Office. However, I’ve seen Ricky Gervais on several American programs, and he seems funny, but I hadn’t seen him in a proper showcase until The Invention Of Lying. Actually, scratch that . . . I still haven’t seen him in a proper showcase.

The Invention of Lying has a brilliant premise: In a world where everyone constantly tells the truth, one person figures out how to lie. A fantastic idea for a comedy; there’s so many things you could do with that premise! The Invention of Lying decides to have lots of weird, go-nowhere cameo appearances, interspersed with The Most Unbelievable Relationship Of All Time between Jennifer Garner and Ricky Gervais.

I get the sense that Garner and Gervais didn’t get along on the set or something; They have no chemistry, and don’t even seem to be in the same room in a lot of their scenes. I’m not kidding; There are single shots of them talking to somebody off-camera, and it’s so badly directed (or mangled by the studio; more later) that it’s not completely clear that they’re sharing eye contact. Plus, at the end, when Gervais wins Garner’s heart (AWWW), they take each other’s hands, look in each other’s eyes . . . and then the camera pans up and into the trees. Did the thought of kissing each other repulse them? Is Gervais gay? He’s British, so . . . sorta.

There are some interesting ideas in the movie; at one point, Gervais’ character tells a lie to his dying mom that ends up creating religion, and there’s a chance for some good satire there; Weirdly, the direction and editing are so flat and weird, everything lands with a thud. Louis CK walks around with his jaw out, and he’s supposed to be Gervais’ drunk friend. There’s clearly tons of stuff that was chopped out of the movie, and the Louis CK stuff is one thing that suffers. When we first see Gervais talk to Louis CK, he alludes to a previous scene that isn’t in the final film. I was shocked when I saw that Gervais co-wrote, co-directed and co-produced the thing.

Which leads me to my theory: Gervais got screwed. Now, maybe he’s a terrible director, but this film screams of studio molestation: The choppy lack of flow, those damn weird cameos (Philip Seymour Hoffman? Ed Norton?) that pad out the movie, the complete lack of attention to comedic rhythm in the editing, it’s a mess. If I were to guess as a guy with no clue whatsoever, I’d say that the religion stuff turned off the test audiences, so they re-shot and added a bunch of crap to obscure that subplot and re-shaped the movie as a shitty romantic comedy. It’s not good, but it’s interesting to see a film that attempts to discuss big ideas get its balls cut off.


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