The Invention of Lying [PG-13]
Cast: Ricky Gervais, Jennifer Garner, Rob Lowe, Tina Fey, Jonah Hill, Louis CK, Martin Starr, cameos: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Edward Norton,
Director: Ricky Gervais, Matthew Robinson
In one of the funnier scenes of The Invention of Lying, British comic Ricky Gervais – stuck in a world where he is the only person who knows how to lie – improvises a religion, the world’s first from what we can tell. The Man in the Sky, he tells a crowd, will give everyone a giant mansion after they die and an eternal afterlife of happiness. (Yes, he is writing his ticket to Hell here.)
What could The Man in the Sky give Gervais in the afterlife? Let’s take a look.
1) A higher Q rating – Last year, Gervais’ name was floated as a host for the Oscars. Those in the know said, “Great!” The majority said, “Who?” The star of the British version of The Office, like many British comics of late, has had a tough time breaking into the American mainstream. While I wouldn’t say his style is without precedent, his melancholy subtlety is a refresher in today’s comic atmosphere of gross-outs and affected weirdness. The man never hard sells a joke, or at least never gets caught doing so.
2) A better leading lady than Jennifer Garner – Garner is a comic over-emoter. She meets every inch of Gervais’ subtlety with miles of pushy expressions. Her face bends in such ways that you must wonder if her skull has secret elbows.
3) A riskier script – Well, it is a twist on Liar, Liar. Gervais appears to be following the path of the American star of The Office, Steve Carell, the Cap’n Crunch of the high-fructose mass comedy. I’d like to see him in a more daring role, even a supporting one. A natural sarcastic cutthroat doorman.
4) A street-front set that doesn’t look like a set, that doesn’t give you the feeling that a crew will clean it up and turn it around for a music video 13 hours later.
5) A story that doesn’t drop off. The Invention of Lying has some quite casually funny moments. A few of the hyper-honest advertisements have real bite as satire of famous products. Then it just …… disappears.
6) More Phillip Seymour Hoffman – Just a fun blip cameo as a salty barkeep.
Best wishes for a happy afterlife, Ricky. But keep plugging away at this one first.