In the book The Atheist's Guide to Christmas, David Baddiel does a chapter on how there has never been an Atheist movie. He has a point as it is difficult to plot a fictional film, without some kind of 'epiphany' moment and, as this film demonstrates, good stories require imagination and, ultimately, lying.
This film dispenses with the need for a religious epiphany by making the epiphany instead into the discovery of lying and the ability to flatter others. There is also a sub plot where Gervais introduces the idea of eternal life and 'the man in the sky' to the truth loving people of planet Earth, who believe him because no-one has ever told a lie.
On top of this, this film has that rare quality of being an atheist comedy, being as it makes the idea of atheism being the truth into one of the key aspects of its humour.
Of course, there is much more to the film than just a narrow view-point on the world and it only struck me at the end of the film that it had this subtext.
Still, if you want to see a true world first - a movie (not a documentary) that tactfully deals with all things skeptical - then get DVD as it will also teach you that skeptical good sense will remain rare, despite its profound truth.
Imagine a world where the art of lying has yet to be invented, where everyone tells the truth, regardless of how offensive others will find it, that's exactly the concept that makes 'The Invention of Lying' such a fun and different movie.
Ricky Gervais stars as Mark Bellison, an unsuccessful screenwriter who is about to be fired. Not many of his work mates like him, as he soon finds out after his sacking. But the thing that really makes him depressed is the fact he's short, chubby - and has a flat nose. Such genetics means he is unable to win the girl of his dreams, the beautiful Anna, who doesn't want her kids to be "fat" with "snub noses" - ouch!
Whilst it looks like he'll never be with Anna, something quite amazing takes place during a trip to the bank. Acting 'off-the-cuff', Mark blurts out a lie, which is something that has never happened to anyone in his world before. It turns out not to be a one-off either, as he continues to tell a few fibs. When his dying mother in hospital reveals she's afraid of what's around the corner, Mark invents a made up tale about his description of the lovely life she'll have in Heaven. The staff at the hospital overhear this, believe him and spread the word like wildfire. Mark suddenly becomes Mr. popularity, and a hit screenplay makes him rich. He now sets out to win over Anna, but it might not be as easy, especially when she agrees to marry somebody else who won't give her ''fat kids with snub noses''.
'The Invention of Lying' is very creative, and often hilarious. I went to see it several years at the cinema, and enjoyed it again on DVD. Look out for minor names playing bit parts and side characters. I hated 'The Office', but did think that this was a very funny and unique comedy film. It doesn't pull any punches, but it's never mean-spirited.
This is a witty, well-acted film based around a novel idea. Mark Bellison (Ricky Gervais) lives in a world where the concept of lying is unknown - there isn't even a word to describe it. But Mark is in trouble. His screenplay for a movie about the Black Death is considered too downbeat and he's about to get sacked. He's also behind in his rent so he gets evicted. His date with Anna McDoogles (Jennifer Garner) is less than successful. When he goes to the bank to draw out all his cash and close the account, their computer systems are down, so the teller has to ask Mark for his account balance. Then he has a brilliant idea: instead of giving the teller the correct sum of $300 he tells her the balance is $800 - which of course she believes. His mother is dying in hospital and is frightened so Mark then invents an uplifting image of the afterlife to put her mind at ease. When a nurse overhears this, a whole new religious cult is created. He writes down some principles he thinks would be beneficial to humankind on two sheets of paper, puts them in two empty pizza boxes, and addresses the multitude from his front porch. This is a thoroughly entertaining film, written and directed by Ricky Gervais with Matthew Robinson with humour that is subtle rather than hilariously funny, though I suspect some religious fundamentalists might consider it disrespectful.
on 19 February 2010
This is an incredibly soft movie. Gervais just goes on and on about how he is "a little pug nosed fat man" and not lying in the film seems to mean "I am thick and say whatever moronic but unfunny thought comes off the top of my head" and "I believe everything everyone says to me". There is no use of his often displayed sharp edge, timing or observational skill. The film just plods along. He has opportunities to do the wrong thing and doesn't and in the end he gets his (rather dull) girl that never seemed to want him anyway. If the idea was pushed to its limits you could get a clever film. When kept within incredibly safe boundaries it is borderline dull. Watch if you need to pass the time, get offended by any form of stimulation and always like to know whats going on without having to try too hard. No that's a bit mean. That is my disappointment at Gervais showing. It is a pleasant, agreeable, nice movie.
on 17 September 2011
No hidden agendas here - this film is, quite simply, very funny.
It does wear its atheist heart on its sleeve, and it seems some people have a problem with this - who would have thought? Unfortunately, genuine criticism becomes conflated with religious outrage, resulting in reviews that are little more than rants. I've even read one review here which exhorts those who have given positive reviews to retract them. That, if nothing else, should move you to watch this film.
I watched the first half of this movie on the TV but missed the second part. So I bought this very reasonably priced DVD to watch the remainder.
Ricky Gervais is pretty good in it, very believable, but in the film generally (the first half, anyway) there's too much adolescent (snigger, snigger) humour that is simply not up to Ricky's writing abilities.
The story line, or plot, itself is fine and thought provoking; if he rewrote some of the dialogue to make it "cleverer" rather than just a bit smutty it could be a 5-star film! Having said that, there are some excellent one-liners that are both funny and clever!
The film gets better as it goes along so persevere and enjoy this interesting story - which Ricky does excel in.
on 21 August 2013
Much as I like Ricky Gervais I loathed this film. It is laboured, clumsy, crass and charmless. The humour is painfully squeezed inside an ill-fitting and utterly unconvincing character arc which uncomfortably weds cynicism with preachiness, dry wit with sickly sentimentalism and Ricky Gervais with Jennifer Garner. Ricky Gervais is worse than bad as a romantic lead - flat, uncharismatic, limp. Jennifer Garner looks like she is trying desperately hard and the message of the film delivered with all the subtlety of an evangelical preacher. And from a man who is usually so sharp with his observations and careful with his character studies...
on 19 May 2014
Unlike the protagonist in the film, I can't lie about this sub-par piece of cinema and what a car crash of a film it is (that's a lot kinder than what the vast majority of characters would say in the film). Like most people I watched the film with Gervais' past work in mind (The Office, Extras, his stand-up and general views), but sadly the film overshadowed those accomplishments and I had to keep questioning myself if this was the same man.
The general outline of the story revolves around a generic and overplayed type of character - Mark. He's down on his luck and nothing is going right, until he fathoms the ability to tell a lie. All of the characters in the film are unable to lie and speak their minds in a one-dimensional tone that makes Schwarzenegger look like a classically trained actor. Like many of the other reviewers, I can't understand why every character (bar Gervais' character for some reason, before he learns to lie) literally spills out insults and horrible comments to every person they encounter. Is every act of kindness the human race gives a complete and utter lie? I doubt humanity would have progressed very far from the Stone Age without kindness and lying.
*SPOILERS* The film escalates to Gervais' character telling the biggest whopper of all time - the man in the sky and the afterlife. I'm not a religious man, but it felt a weak attack towards religion. Dogma and Life of Brian did this very well, but this film lacks the ability to spark any controversy, which is clearly what Gervais is aiming for. I haven't even mentioned the love story/triangle as it is absolutely poor and doesn't add anything to the film. The only redeeming feature of the film is Stephen Merchant and Barry from Eastenders who provide the only laughs of the film.
I love Gervais, but this film has left a skidmark on his film career. It's almost as if he has become Andy Millman from Extras and sold out. The constant reference to his nose and appearance is just overused and nowhere close to David Bowie's observation in Extras. This film had so much potential, yet it took the 'safe' route and ultimately ended up with a poor film, awful acting and a predictable plot. All in all, avoid the film and Youtube the Barry/Stephen Merchant clip!
on 24 January 2016
After the first fifteen minutes or so I seriously thought this was going to be one of the funniest films I had seen and then............well, then it becomes a Hollywood movie with the usual path and ending. Sad really as the premise of, what seems to be, an alternative world where no one has ever had the thought to lie and Ricky's character becomes the first when things hit a rough patch, had all the signs of going somewhere.
Just the initial scenes when he calls on Jennifer Garner to take her on a date and she VERY honestly tells him what she has been doing when he knocked the door are jaw droppingly funny. The only way to give a comparison what to expect is when you watch The Big Bang Theory and Sheldon and Amy are shockingly honest when they talk. This possibly takes that a step further to start.
Interesting to see quite a number of different people turning up in small parts - Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Rob Lowe, Jonah Hill...........
It's not a bad film, it just misses that conviction to carry on and be really good. If you liked Ghost Town you will like this and Ricky is.......Ricky.
A funny bonus feature shows Karl Pilkington moaning his way to the US to be in it, getting dressed up as a caveman, getting his head shaved, spending hours hanging about and then..............the scene was cut.
on 5 October 2014
Light-hearted fun at first, set in a world where lying is an unknown concept. It’s nicely done to start with; the characters are rather exaggerated, but that doesn’t matter much. It was mildly amusing for the first half hour or so, until Ricky Gervais, playing the main character Mark, has a brainstorm and tells the first lie.
Suddenly the movie takes a sad turn, which could have worked well - except that from then on it changes to become propaganda for atheism. It’s cleverly done, I suppose; subtly, but with the same kind of pseudo-humour as before. However it's is rather a sneaky way of expressing one’s message in what is supposed to be entertainment, and left rather a bad taste in our mouths.
We were a bit shocked to learn that the rating of this movie is only 12A or PG-13; while there’s no violence, and only a few instances of bad language, there are several sexual references - some very direct - which should surely have made this at least a 15. I doubt if it would be of any interest to younger teenagers, but parents should be aware of the content - the IMDB site has a good parental advisory - if watching it with children around.
Had it not been for the atheist propaganda I might have given this four stars.