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The Invention of Lying (2009)
Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 1/19/2010
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/14/2010
Get it on Blu-ray, DVD, and Download January 19th!
Will mainstream America ever warm up to Ricky Gervais? In his native Britain, the man is a huge star and his show The Office (which was remade in America as...The Office) is extremely popular (despite the fact that only 14 episodes were done). And clearly Hollywood loves him, as he makes cameos in movies and TV shows and he's hosting the Golden Globes. However, his attempts to appeal to middle-America haven't gone over so well. His first starring role in a feature film,Ghost Town, was virtually ignored. Gervais is now back in another film, The Invention of Lying. Will this one do any better?
The Invention of Lying takes place in a world which is exactly like our own -- it's the 21st century and all of our modern conveniences and customs exist there. There's only one difference -- no one in this world can lie. There isn't even a word for "truth", because there doesn't need to be -- everything which everyone says is true and there's no need to question it. Not only does everyone speak the truth, they are always quite blunt and honest about what is on their mind, no matter how insulting it is (so, it's just like being in the northeast). Mark Bellison (Ricky Gervais) is considered a loser in this world. He's short and pudgy, and he's about to be fired from his job as a screenwriter for a documentary film company (documentaries are all that are made, as fiction doesn't exist). He goes on a date with Anna (Jennifer Garner), but she's very up-front with him that she doesn't find him attractive. Then, one day during a very traumatic situation, something happens in Mark's brain which gives him the ability to lie, or create fantasy. He quickly uses this to his advantage to gain material success. But, he also realizes that not telling the truth can also make others happy. Still, in a world where people are only judged by their surface traits, can Mark ever be truly happy?
My question in the opening concerning the success of The Invention of Lying was a bit of a teaser, as we already know the answer: the movie came and went at theaters, barely making back its initial budget. Despite a great supporting cast which features Rob Lowe, Louis C.K., and a host of celebrity cameos, the movie didn't garner (no pun intended) much attention. (The awkward title aside) Is it a bad movie, or did American viewers simply miss the boat again, as they did with Ghost Town?
The answer, unfortunately for us, is that American viewers missed the boat again. The Invention of Lying is a multi-layered comedy which manages to somehow be poignant, controversial, and funny. At the outset, the movie is a bit off-putting. While the concept of people who can't lie is fairly easy to grasp (as we've seen this in Liar, Liar), it's the fact that these same people say whatever they are thinking which is surprising (and to the film's detriment, we are never told why people feel that they must do this). And while the movie looks like a romantic-comedy on the surface, some may be surprised that the movie leans more towards fantasy, as it is taking place in an alternate universe.
And it is below the surface where the movie really shines. The Invention of Lying has a lot to say about our world, and this aspect may repel some viewers. Gervais and his co-writer/co-director Matthew Robinson have taken what appears to be a whimsical and light-hearted movie and use it as a platform to address some societal issues. The movie is very much in favor of the downtrodden, as it questions how we judge others only by what we see. In the world portrayed in the film, only the attractive and confident are successful -- anyone perceived as unattractive is immediately labeled a "loser" and has no chance in life. People pick partners not based on love, but on strong genetic traits. (In this sense, the movie really wanders into sci-fi territory, and it's social message reminded of a better version of Idiocracy.) Hopefully I won't be giving too much away here (as I didn't know about this going into the film), but the movie has a lot to say about religion as well. This is going to turn a lot of people off. Unfortunately, they are going to miss a film which has a great message about love and respect.
So, how is Ricky Gervais in the film. Well, as he wrote it for himself, it's the role that he was born to play. Even before he gains the ability to lie, Mark seems to be the only person in the world who is hurt by the truth (read: insults) hurled at him by others. Gervais is a master of awkward social situations and it's very funny to watch him try to ask someone a simple question while they insult him. Once he learns to lie, we get to watch him reel at how gullible these people are. The movie also has some great jokes with how movies and advertising are handled in a movie where there is nothing but the truth. The term "thinking man's" is thrown around way too much (and it's sexist), but The Invention of Lying really is a film aimed at a more intellectual audience. If you can get past the film's blunt nature and you're not offended by some aspects of it, you'll find a moving and funny film.
The Invention of Lying has issues with fire and bears on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 14 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no defects from the source material. However, there are some issues here. The image displays grain which isn't necessarily intrusive, but it's hard to ignore in some shots. The actor's complexions look awful at times, as they are muddy and appear smeared. The colors look fine and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is good as well, but those other flaws really hurt the transfer. The Disc offers a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are OK, but they are never very pronounced. Likewise with the surround sound effects -- they are present in some scenes, but they are weak. The music in the film does sound very good, especially ELO's "Mr. Blue Sky", and this is the only time that we get any bass action.
The Invention of Lying Blu-ray Disc contains sevral extras. "Prequel: The Dawn of Lying" (6 minutes) is sort of a condensed version of the movie featuring all of the actors from the film playing cavemen. "Meet Karl Pilkington" (18 minutes) is an odd quasi-documentary which shows Gervais' friend dealing with the fact that he's going to be an extra in the film. "A Truly 'Honest' Making-of Featurette with Ricky Gervais" (7 minutes) is a very loose piece where every cast member is interviewed with (not by) Gervais. It never bothers to tell us what the movie is about and there are only a few clips. Otherwise, we get a great deal of on-set footage and Gervais outtakes. The Disc contains five ADDITIONAL SCENES which run about 7 minutes. These are OK, but the bulk are taken up with monologues from Christopher Guest, which were much funnier in their truncated form in the film. We get four of "Ricky and Matt's Video Podcasts" which run about 10 minutes. These show Gervais touring the sets and working in the office. Finally "More Laughter: Corpsing and Outtakes" is a 6-minute gag reel.
Review Copyright 2010 by Mike Long