Slowly but surely Ricky Gervais is permeating into the public conscious in the US. While he’s dominated the UK with The Office and Extras, only those who watch a lot of the US version of The Office is familiar with his name (as long as they read the opening credits to each episode, at least). He’s had a few small films in the US already, but his biggest exposure was from his limited role in the Night at the Smithsonian outings. So it’s no wonder that his latest comedy, The Invention of Lying, suffered from poor reviews and low box office intake. Still, even those who saw the film and grew tired of its rather elongated story have to admit that Gervais is definitely not like the other comedians out there. He loves to make others laugh as much as he loves to laugh at himself.
In a world where the human race has never evolved the ability to lie, a man who suddenly discovers how will change the world. With this superpower he can get anything he wants. Well, nearly everything. Ricky Gervais (Extras, BBC’s The Office) displays his hilarious deadpan acting talents in a comedy invention he co-wrote and co-directed. With a star-studded cast including Jennifer Garner, Louis C.K. and Rob Lowe, plus cameos by Tina Fey and Jonah Hill, it’s “explosively funny,” according to New York critic David Edelstein. Believe it.
See that last line at the end of the official synopsis (pulled from the Blu-ray itself)? “Believe It.” Yeah, while this show is advertised as a comedy about a man who discovers lying it ends up being quite a different film altogether. I questioned the reviews that said it took on an overly religious tone but…guess what? That’s what 80% of the movie is. You can’t market it as such, of course, because it’d offend too many people. But even though it took a humorous look at religion (kind of like Life of Brian, but with a great deal less humor to it), it’s still not your conventional film. I found it almost odd who similar it was to Gervais’s previous work, Ghost Town, until I realized they were kind of the same thing. Both films Gervais plays a man who is rather beaten down in life or just generally unhappy, but he tries his best to be honest and eventually we get a happy ending. It’s the ending you want, as even though Gervais comes off too strong at times, you still root for the short and fat every-man.
The first act of the film is likely where you will spend the majority of your time laughing, because once it takes its swing into the religious content it really just punches you in the gut with it. Still, it’s so overloaded with cameos (Edward Norton, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tina Fey, Jonah Hill, Martin Starr, Jeffrey Tambor, Jason Bateman) that you can’t help but fall in love with the film at first. Which may be what Gervais was going for, because if he plowed in with his message of religion from the start it would have no doubt sent ticket holders fleeing for the nearest exit…which it may have eventually done anyway, who knows.
As much as the religion debate weighs heavy on this film, I really don’t think that the idea for the film is what didn’t work. It was an original concept and Gervais tackled it head-on with perfect writing. It was when the film started to progress past his characters declarations about the afterlife that it grew to be tedious. The sudden pairing of Garner and Lowe’s characters hung around the films second act like a lead belt and by the time that whole subplot ended the film was on its last legs and crawling towards the end credits. I don’t know how to clean that whole mess of a second act up, however, as extending the film would have undoubtedly hurt it even more.
It’s also mildly interesting that in a world without lying it seems that everyone has serious cases of truth turrets’ as well, since the movie starts out with a woman declaring the wondrous…well, I’ll leave that one for you to discover on your own. Without a doubt the world without lying is interesting to observe and while it’s a rather bleak look into such a world (especially since apparently there is no religion since religion is apparently all a big…oh hey, I think I just got to the core of why people didn’t like this movie…), Gervais does his best to make it was entertaining as it is enlightening. Plus you get to see him dressed up as Jesus at one point, so that was hilarious even if you saw the joke coming a mile away.
Overall The Invention of Lying is a Recommended film but only if you enjoy Gervais’s other work as well. There’s definitely a certain level of uncomfortable humor ala his other more famous BBC productions, but overall it’s a lot more accessible than his past works. As long as you ignore the whole anti-religion agenda this film seems to toss about, as I’m sure that will set off quite a few groups.
The film itself arrives in a standard Blu-ray two-disc case (non-Eco though…weird) with the Blu-ray itself and a second disc for the digital copy. A singular insert for the Insider Rewards and Digital Copy codes is included, while an external slipcase mimics the art beneath it. The cover art is the same as the theatrical poster, although the quotes in the boxes are slightly different I believe. Plus the critics quote at the bottom, of course.
Prepare yourself for a shocker: the VC-1 encoded video and Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix are…adequate! Yes, this romantic comedy/religious…thing is only just adequate enough to be enjoyed on the Blu-ray format and for good reason. That reason, you ask? Well it’s a freakin’ romantic comedy/religious…thing mash-up, did you expect it to look like a $100 million+ blockbuster? It’s a solid transfer for what it is, although the lie-less world is rather drab in colors, though things do pick up towards the end once Gervais’s character begins to build up the fibs. Still, it’s a remarkably underwhelming transfer as though it sports plenty of clarity, it just doesn’t bowel you over with mind blowing visuals. Not unexpected and for that reason alone I’m not going to take marks off for the presentation as it is adequate and also a worthy show on Blu-ray, as it, of course, sports a whole level of detail that DVD can’t touch.
Extras are limited and include:
Prequel: The Dawn of Lying (6:30, SD)
A Truly “Honest” Making-of Featurette (7:17, 1080p)
Meet Karl Pilkington (17:48, SD)
Ricky and Matt’s Video Podcasts (9:59, SD)
Additional Scenes (7:12, SD)
Corpsing and Outtakes (5:33, SD)
I probably could’ve forgiven the lackluster and nearly HD-less extras if there was a commentary but…alas, no dice. The extras themselves are surprisingly devoid of Gervais input, which is strange since he was star, writer, producer and director. There’s a lot of talking about Gervais, but rarely does he get in front of the camera and speak. Whatever, the extras are bland and disappointing, with the only real worthy extra being the “Meet Karl Pilkington,” which is surprisingly long considering he was never actually in the movie (only in the “Prequel”…which was quite boring and stupid, to be honest).
Overall I’m a huge fan of Gervais but even I grew tired of Lying after awhile. Not enough not to still recommend it for a Rental mind you, but it’s definitely not a film for everyone.
The Invention of Lying arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on January 19th.