Unreal Movie Review: The Invention of Lying


A long time ago when The Invention of Lying was announced (back then it was The Other Side of Truth), I was incredibly excited. Take the interesting concept of Liar, Liar, flip it inside out, remove the camp of Jim Carrey and replace it with the subtlety of Ricky Gervais, and sprinkle an all-star cast on top. Sounds like the recipe for perfection.

Well, now that it’s been fully cooked, the end result is pretty tasty, yet ends up being ultimately lacking, in the closest thing Ricky Gervais has ever had to a misstep in his entertainment career. But even though it teeters on the edge of missing the mark, pieces of it are so dead-on, it’s enough to turn the movie into an overall success.

The premise behind the film is inherently simple. In a world where everyone tells the truth, one man learns how to lie. But it’s not quite that simple, as “telling the truth” is more like “saying absolutely everything that comes into your head” and “learning to lie” can be used as the equivalent of a Jedi mind trick to get people to do whatever you want.

The way Mark (Ricky Gervais) uses this ability is rather unexpected, as is his character is far from the prick Gervais usually plays on film. He’s a generally unselfish and moral person who gets shit on by a world full of truth-tellers informing him he’s a fat ugly loser every few minutes. But despite this torrent of hate, even after he gains his lie-powers, he rarely abuses them, chickening out after a hot woman is clamoring to have sex with him (because he told her the world would end if she didn’t) and yes, he gets rich, but even then he’s only taking money from a casino or writing and selling the world’s first fictional screenplay. Last but not least, he has the opportunity to con the girl of his dreams into being with him (Jennifer Garner), yet he always restrains himself from taking advantage of her.


“You look…thin.”

But the movie takes a drastic turn into the unexpected when Mark is talking to his mother on her deathbed, and convinces her that when she dies, she’s actually going to a happy place where she gets to be young again and live in a mansion and see all her old friends for eternity. It’s a shockingly touching moment, that lasts only briefly, when you discover that the hospital staff has been listening in, and are eager to hear more.

The news spreads across the world that a man has learned what happens after you die. Millions hold candlelight vigils and camp outside his house waiting to hear more.

And this is how The Invention of Lying unexpectedly became the ballsiest critique of organized religion I’ve ever seen in a movie theater.

Since no one has ever lied in this world, religion does not exist, as the logic goes here, all religions are not based on truth. In this world, Jesus likely lived and died, but no one ever talked about any miracles, no one said saw him rise from the dead and he went down in history as a rather smart philosopher that told us to be nice to each other and never claimed to be the son of God.

But now that Mark has the power to tell people absolutely anything, He writes down a set of ten statements on a pair of pizza boxes, and walks out to the masses with outstretched arms. He tells everyone there is a man in the sky who is in control of everything, will send you to a happy place with mansions if you’re good, and a bad place if you’re bad. This immediately sets off a stream of outcries about what specific things will get you sent the bad place, and Mark has to make up arbitrary rules for what’s right and wrong on the spot. And how does he claim to know all this? Because the man in the sky told him so, that’s how.

If you’re not getting it now, I’m not sure what else to say to you.

As I said, it’s the most aggressive swipe at organized religion I’ve ever seen in a movie, and came completely out of nowhere. That being said, I think this part of the movie was absolutely brilliantly done, not necessarily because I agree with it, but from an objective perspective, it’s just so damn clever.

Unfortunately, outside of this aspect of a film, and a few clusters of jokes that hit, the rest of the movie is just very poorly planned out. There isn’t really a character arc for Mark. Right from the get-go, he’s always sort of doing the right thing with his ability, and never does anything too outrageous like you’d expect from someone with limitless power (except for that whole inventing God thing). I feel like the film may have benefitted from a more traditional path of power abuse, then realization, then a change of heart and we would feel like we actually progressed somewhere by the end of the film.

In the end, the concept is just too massive for even someone as smart as Gervais to tackle. It’s a golden opportunity for an endless amount of jokes, yet the prospect overwhelms The Invention of Lying and it never feels as funny as it should be. There are moments of brilliance here, but unfortunately they’re so disconnected from each other, the film doesn’t feel like a complete whole. And that’s the honest truth.

3 out of 5 stars


Ricky Gervias was too chicken to script an actual kiss with Jennifer Garner. Not that I wouldn’t be too…

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  1. Why call this a review? Its more like a spoiler..
    I did not even get to the end cuz i was afraid you would ruin that for me too!

    I do not agree with Madison. It is not a nice review.

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