The Invention of Lying takes place in an alternate reality in which lying—even the concept of a lie—does not even exist. Everyone—from politicians to advertisers to the man and woman on the street—speaks the truth and nothing but the truth with no thought of the consequences.
But when a down-on-his-luck loser named Mark (Ricky Gervais) suddenly develops the ability to lie, he finds that dishonesty has its rewards. In a world where every word is assumed to be the absolute truth, Mark easily lies his way to fame and fortune.
But lies have a way of spreading, and Mark begins to realize that things are getting a little out of control when some of his tallest tales are being taken as, well, gospel. With the entire world now hanging on his every word, there is only one thing Mark has not been able to lie his way into: the heart of the woman he loves.
The opening sequences of 'The Invention of Lying' are pure comedic genius. Showcasing an alternate reality where falsehoods and fraudulent behavior are nonexistent and unheard of is absolutely brilliant. According to the narrator, humanity has not developed the ability to lie, which apparently means people can't be deceitful, are incapable of flattery to win favors, and fiction is inconceivable. There aren't even words for such things. People literally say what's on their mind in the very moment they are thinking it, because showing consideration of another's feelings is the least understood form of lying. If you have nothing nice to say, say it anyways.
In this parallel universe, civilization is mainly concerned with seeing the world as it truly is, meaning a world without art, imagination, or creativity, as they are all the result of a false perception of reality. This civilization is, quite frankly, boring, uninspiring and unintentionally apathetic. For us, on the other hand, it is utterly hilarious and exciting. Advertisements and building names are blunt and candid, while the only form of movie entertainment is a history lesson. That's right, the summer blockbuster doesn't contain any make-believe CGI action or gory, graphic pictures of horror and torture. Instead, the films of this world feature an elderly gentleman (Christopher Guest) in a smoking jacket speaking to a camera about two years in the life of Napoleon Bonaparte.
The would-be hero of this unfortunate existence is Mark Bellison (Ricky Gervais), a short, stocky man with a snub-nosed face constantly reminded of being a fat loser by coworkers. Somehow he's won a blind-date with attractive, "way-out-of-his-league" Anna McDoogles (Jennifer Garner), who within minutes readily admits to not being attracted to him physically and due to his financial status. The next day he is fired from his scriptwriting job, because in all honesty, no one cares about the Black Plague or the 1300s. Feeling down on his luck and about to be evicted from his apartment, Mark tells the first lie ever in human history to a bank clerk. With the discovery of this newfound ability, he creates a life for himself that could only be dreamt of. But one little, white lie has some unexpected consequences.
It's at this point audience members will be quickly divided into those who enjoy the film as is and those who will take offense at its sudden shift in comedic tone. What Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson, both making their feature-length directing debut, have created is something wholly unique and astonishingly worthwhile. Hiding beneath its rom-com exterior is a penetrating and sharp religious satire which also takes jabs at our world of social etiquette and manners. Although the narrative clearly implies the invention of fiction and imagination correlates with the beginning of faith and devotion, there is no impression of the story being meant as an assault or intended for controversy. Rather, it's simply food for thought coated with some humor to make it easier to digest.
Even more shrewd is the idea that small fibs and white lies lead to propriety and common decency meant for sparing another person's feelings. There seems to be a greater deal of truth behind this than anything else in the film. Although it relies heavily on the rom-com formula to complete its plot, there is much lying beneath its grandiose ideas. And while it comes with some very minor holes within its concept of frank honesty, particularly in the case of the hilarious Edward Norton cameo, and while the direction is workmanlike, 'The Invention of Lying' remains a funny, highly imaginative and very risky comedy. It likely will not appeal to many, but it's a job well done from Gervais and Robinson nonetheless. As the saying goes, the truth hurts. And in this instance, it really stings.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Warner Home Video debuts 'The Invention of Lying' on a BD25 Blu-ray disc and housed with a Digital Copy (which expires on 1/12/2011) of the film. The standard blue keepcase also comes with a basic cardboard slipcover, and the cover art is a reproduction of the original poster featuring the faces of Gervais, Garner, Louis C.K., and Rob Lowe.
'The Invention of Lying' arrives on high-definition with attractive but rather ordinary picture quality. The 1080p/VC-1 transfer (1.85:1) comes with the sort of warm palette normally associated with romantic comedies, which isn't a bad thing at all. Primaries are accurate and adequately saturated, while secondary hues are full-bodied and diverse. Flesh tones appear healthy and natural, with good textural complexions, especially in close-ups. The image is also nicely detailed and sharp in daylight sequences as well as poorly-lit interiors. Although lines in various objects are for the most part firm and unwavering, there is the occasional soft spot, especially one scene taking place in the park, and some light, minor ringing is noticeable in distant shots. Contrast and brightness levels are well balanced and consistent with deep, stable blacks and clean, crisp whites. In the end, this comedy looks good in high-def but it's not comparable to the best new releases.
Warner gives 'The Invention of Lying' the Dolby TrueHD treatment, showcasing that which matters most in a rom-com. Dialogue reproduction is excellently prioritized and intelligible throughout. The rest of the soundstage exhibits an enjoyable openness that is charming and welcoming with expansive dynamics, detailed clarity, and a strong acoustic presence. The sound design doesn't allow for much bass, but the lower frequencies are there to add a bit of depth to the vocals and music. Activity in the background is expectedly limited, yet ambient effects are occasionally and effectively employed, pleasantly enhancing the soundfield and generating a convincing atmosphere where appropriate. Tim Atack's musical score also lends itself well to the surrounds and gives the track some entertaining charisma. While it may not reach the levels of demo quality, the lossless mix is still engaging and more than adequate for a romcom.
Warner Bros releases 'The Invention of Lying' with the same supplemental material as its day-and-date DVD counterpart. It's not a very exciting collection of extras, but they do offer a couple more laughs after the movie.
Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson make their directorial debut with the hilarious 'The Invention of Lying'. The highly imaginative and risky comedy features an incisive and sharp satire beneath its formulaic rom-com veil. The Blu-ray arrives with a good A/V presentation and a decent collection of bonus material. As much as I'd like to recommend this very funny Ricky Gervais comedy, I'm certain it'd be a safer bet to rent it first considering the film's subject matter.