Ricky Gervais proved an unexpectedly successful romantic lead in Ghost Town but The Invention of Lying, his second starring vehicle in Hollywood and his first as co-director, is something of a disappointment.
The film’s satirical premise is promising. It’s set in a world where everyone tells the truth, which means that neither storytelling nor religion exist. Gervais plays the man who invents both. His middle-aged loser, Mark Bellison, has just been fired from his job and rejected by the girl of his dreams (played by good sport Jennifer Garner), but he turns his life around when he discovers the ability to lie.
His fibs win him wealth and status, but it all gets out of hand after he reassures his dying mother with the made-up promise of an afterlife. Word of Mark’s revelation gets out and soon the whole world is hanging on his pronouncements about the ‘Man in the Sky’, turning Mark into a world-famous guru.
The Invention of Lying has some good gags, including the scene where Mark reveals to the masses his version of the Ten Commandments, written on the lids of two pizza cartons. But the flat direction becomes wearisome and the story runs out of steam before it even reaches a romcom ending that is more sentimental than subversive.
It’ll be interesting, though, to see how Gervais fares when he returns to home territory for his forthcoming movie Cemetery Junction, which is set in 1970s Reading and has been co-written and directed with his Office/Extras partner Stephen Merchant. It comes out in April.
Released 1st February.