Review in a Hurry: Ricky Gervais and Jennifer Garner star in The Invention of Lying, a comedy of such startlingly wit that it's abrupt and conventional turn can be forgiven.
The Bigger Picture: It is such a simple set up: a society where nobody has the ability to lie. So the first 60 minutes of The Invention of Lying are some of the smartest, most surprisingly subversive minutes you could spend in the cinema this year. It's an innovative satire about the social contract, manners, sex, religion—I know, how could it be about so many things at once? Somehow, miraculously, it is!
Oh, but then it melts into a gooey romantic comedy.
In Mark's (Gervais) world, honesty is the only policy. Advertisers, politicians, co-workers, lovers can only tell you the absolute truth. This hyper-honest, almost sci-fi world cultivates cutting one liners and fantastic sight gags like "Pepsi: When They're Out of Coke."
So Mark's life is largely predetermined: He isn't very clever, he isn't very cute, and he isn't at all successful.
Everyone knows these facts including his ditzy blind date (Garner who thinks he's nice, but a poor genetic match for her Olympian good looks) or shallow Alpha Male rival (Rob Lowe). Serendipity strikes, though, and Mark figures out how to lie to get women, money, and fame.
Along the way, Mark does good deeds by lying: helps a homeless guy get money out the bank, lies to people about their looks, and makes up a story about what happens to you after you die.
Lying makes everyone happier, but still doesn't cure Mark's solitude.
This is when the movie avoids getting too heavy. Instead of sticking with the idea that our lives are without meaning and the biggest lie we can tell ourselves is that they have meaning, Lying goes in for a soft landing about finding true love.
The tone remains the same throughout, though, good spirited and high minded without pretensions. It remains funny—but forsakes its potential to be a truly original comedy start-to-finish.
The 180—a Second Opinion: Garner's face is, um, distractingly angular. You can actually see the contours of her skull. But then, of course, maybe that sort of thing doesn't bother you.
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