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3.6 out of 5 stars
The Invention of Lying
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70 of 82 people found the following review helpful
Wow. I was totally blown away. The last thing I actually expect Hollywood to do nowadays is make a movie that is thought provoking, tackles some truly profound issues about the human condition, and is funny to boot.

Ricky Gervais has won instant respect for me. I bet a friend before coming to Amazon (I rented the Blu-ray on Netflix) that there would be a bunch of 1 star reviews. And that none of them would actually be about the film per se or its quality but would be religious peoplem who, get offended when someone asks them to think about what they say they believe and why.

Gervais ends up examining 2 aspects of the human condition, lying and religion. What would a world be like where people simply not only did not but could not lie. You get a number of humorous situations from this. It makes you think about the role of 'social lying' in particular. Manners, in a way, for lack of a better word

Now on to religion. I think Gervais hit on 2 issues that are very germaine. One how can an 'all good God' be responsible for the good and the bad. Very hard for anyone to explain although people try with that oldie 'everything happens for a reason'. Also explores an honest reaction to a 'god' well tourting people for eternity.

Of more interest to me though was the potential consequences of becoming focused on an afterlife at the expense of this life. The character played by Jonah Hill represents an all too real condition. People who place less value on their life, this life, because everything will work out in the afterlife or that is the real life. This can create HUGE HARM to individuals, society, and the planet. If people don't treasure every day as it should be, if they don't treasure the earth as their home, if they don't treasure each and every species as their brothers and sisters, they risk missing out on exisistence, they miss out on the universe, they miss out on Life. And they do not, perhaps, treat the Earth, themselves, and each other with the depth and meaning they should. If the Earth to them is a shadow, how can it mean what it should?

This is of course IMO. I am sure many people will disagree. But kudos, HUGE kudos, to Ricky for getting this on film. One of the most meaningful and thought provoking, yet also comedic, films Hollywood has done in years.
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75 of 95 people found the following review helpful
This film plays out like a British reality TV show. It just feels a bit off, but bear with it. That is part of its charm. Around 37 minutes into it (if memory serves), "WHAM!", it follows true reality and goes completely off script. That's all I can tell you. But here's why you really need to see this movie:

It's pure genius. The whole of it has a rather laid back feel, and the pacing is more a nice leisurely stroll through the park on a warm Autumn day than a Jason Bourne movie or the latest Transformers (both of which I enjoyed, but have nothing more to do with this review). This film draws you in slowly. For some of you it may seem a bit dry and boring, even pedantic at first--stay with it! This is the evolution of personal existence. This is real life as it happens. We go through our days performing our daily rituals and fulfilling our self-imposed duties and then we see something shiny and we pick it up, and suddenly the world starts to find color. This shiny new thing could be a relationship, or a new hobby, a passion for something we did not believe we could have before--or in this case--lying.

The point of this film is (naturally) to entertain us, but just underneath is a series of layered messages and thoughts to ponder on our own lives and the society we live in. In much the same way foreign films tend to attract a certain demographic, this film, feeling a lot like a film foreign to Americans (in pace and structure) is meant to attract people who want to THINK while they are being entertained, rather than wait for glimpses of Megan Fox in a wet bikini (and who doesn't want to do that?). This is truly a film worth owning, and it is a film worth watching a few times (spaced apart by a few months). It gets under your skin and stays with you--and it will without a doubt upset more than a few knee-jerk religionists, but that is the other half of the fun.

The movie is interesting, enjoyable and slow-paced enough to simultaneously allow the slow-to-catch-on to get the joke, but also allow those a bit faster on the up-take to digest the meaning of the joke while enjoying the film. Not at all a first date movie, but if you want to evaluate the relationship quality of your current romantic prospect, this is a MUST SEE. Much like Blazing Saddles, this movie will instantly tell you whether youa re dating the right person for you.

As always, thanks for reading :-)
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55 of 73 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 2010
I loved this movie. It's sweet, and funny and really quite brilliant. It is about an imaginary world where no one can lie (and no one has ever been able to lie), and what happens to the very human, but kind-hearted man who first becomes able to. Though his intentions are mostly altruistic (remember, I also said he is very human, so he also does things to benefit himself), he inadvertently causes some big problems in his world. It's all very funny and sweet.

Yes, there are some strong references to the idea that religion is completely made-up, for the purpose of comforting people and calming their fears of death. For someone who can actually *think* about religion, instead of being a knee-jerk reactionary or dogmatic follower, it provides some terrific things to think about.

If your religious faith is so frail that it cannot stand the idea of a fictional story in which someone makes up religion in order to make the world a better place for the people they care about, then I'd have to say that you don't have much in the way of actual faith to begin with.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
If the Amazon reviewing system let me give half stars, I would give this 3.5. 3 feels too low for it, but I just can't bring myself to give out a 4. This movie has a fantastic premise - nobody is capable of lying, which gives for some funny lines and great situations. What brought down the star rating was the ending, which to me, felt very cliched.

One thing I can say is that it'd be great if the ads had more truth in them. I loved the way ads were presented in the movie, especially the Coke ad and the guy being all like, it's sweet brown water' and what not. The Pepsi bus ad was also funny, and the labels given to places often feel rather more appropriate than the ones we give them.

That there was no religion in this movie before is a simple and efficient truth - no one knows for sure that god is real, and if we could only speak the truth and nothing but, then the BS connected with religion would just disappear. This movie isn't so much a comedy as it's a satire. It might not be for everyone, but I enjoyed it, and if you like this kind of thing, yhen you should too.
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16 of 22 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 7, 2010
Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson co-write and co-direct The Invention of Lying, a film I honestly did not expect to like. I'm familiar with Gervais and have heard great things about him, but somehow his TV shows and movies have eluded me. The Invention of Lying is my introduction to him and it makes for great entertainment.

Gervais plays Mark Bellison, who lives in alternate reality where the human race has not adapted the ability to lie. It's hard to deny this is an interesting idea and the opening scenes of the film are quite funny. Mark works as a screenwriter at a film studio, where films consist of a man on screen reading a script based on an event in history. Writing a story requires a certain amount of lying, after all. On the verge of getting fired and rejected by the girl of his dreams (Jennifer Garner) because he's overweight; Mark sees his life in a downward spiral. On the eve of being evicted from his apartment, Mark tells the world's first lie and with his newfound ability a way to improve his life in every aspect.

The film has an eclectic cast including Jonah Hill (as Mark's suicidal neighbor), Jeffrey Tambor, Rob Lowe (as an esteemed screenwriter), and Tina Fey. Furthermore, there are two very funny cameos by Phillip Seymour Hoffman (as a bartender) and Edward Norton (as a cop).

The entire alternate reality is a marvelous idea and Gervais keeps it from growing old within minutes. The Coke/Pepsi gags, as well as the brutally honest business names are consistently amusing.

Obviously, The Invention of Lying is built on a gimmick. In the hands of lesser writers, this gimmick could have run out of steam very quickly, yet Gervais keeps the wit, social commentary (involving religion), and energy consistent throughout. The Invention of Lying is a strong comedy film that had me laughing very hard, but also had me thinking. If the film didn't descend into predictability towards the end (while still retaining its charm), I would say it's one of my favorite films of 2009. Alas, Gervais has fashioned a comedy that is smart, underrated, and very well-done...Definitely worth your time.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I'm new to the comedy of Ricky Gervais having seen him only in small roles like Night in the Museum. He is amazingly sharp witted and talented with a style that reminds me of Ben Stiller, though he looks nothing like him. The Invention of Lying is clever, original, and irreverent. I loved hearing what we think spoken aloud, and how even before he discovered lying Gervais was the one person able to not say whatever popped into his mind and just react to the tactless and inappropriate comments being flung at him. Hilarious. I also thought his poking fun at Jewish/Christian beliefs and traditions was often insightful and really funny. What he picked as the basis for the first religion and the spread of religion was silly but rather fascinating too. I was on the edge of my seat along with the masses to hear the next "commandment" as well, ha ha.

SPOILER The one thing that didn't work for me was at the very end what came across to me as atheist agenda pushing. If it were say a movie about pretending to see aliens or claiming to talk to dead people, you'd say "I don't really see dead people/aliens" and not "there are no aliens." Also, at his mother's grave Gervais says "I know you are in really in there (the ground)" it would be better if he said "I wish you really were in a mansion in the sky," that is, take a more agnostic in tone re: "the man in the sky." END SPOILER

All in all though this is a thought provoking movie not primarily about lying, but about truth. And how, to discover truth, we need to go beyond the raw facts to seek deeper meaning beneath the superficial surface level, explore fiction, and yes, even have a little faith.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
I've enjoyed Ricky Gervais ever since I first saw him in the UK version of The Office. His performance in his next series, Extras, was even better. Now comes The Invention of Lying, the first movie he (co)directed, and it is very entertaining!

Basically what we have here is a movie set in a world where lying never evolved. As a result, lots of things are different (like a Pepsi ad that says, "Pepsi: for when you can't find Coke"). Enter Mark Bellison (Gervais). He's a short little fat man with a stubby nose (as everyone keeps reminding him), and basically a loser. He writes screenplays for Lecture Films, a company that makes movie featuring a man sitting in a chair talking about history. Fiction never evolved, you see.

Mark gets fired from his job and is at a real low point in his life. Stuck having to come up with $800 to pay his rent, he tells a teller in a bank that that's how much he has in his account. She believes him, why not, and gives him the $800 rather than the $300 actually there. Having discovered this new ability, for which he doesn't even have a work, Mark embarks on a series of life-changing events.

Now this could've just been a one-dimensional situation played for easy laughs, and there's a bit of that at first, but then he's at his mother's deathbed, in tears and she tells him she's afraid of dying, of experiencing nothing for eternity (for the record, I'm not. How can one "experience" nothing, after all?). Thinking quickly, Mark tells her all about how there's a big man in the sky who will give her a mansion to live in and a chance to be reunited with all her loved ones. She dies happy, and the hospital staff are amazed at this sudden revelation of an afterlife.

Mark has basically just invented religion.

Gervais is an outspoken atheist, and I think that's clear in this movie, where the theory is that religion can't exist without lying. It's a fascinating concept and one well-explored within the film.

There's parts of the movie that lag a little, and some concepts I would've liked to have seen explored a little more, but overall, this is a great film and one I recommend.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
When I first saw a trailer for this movie, I did not know Ricky Gervais. What I saw of it, and just from the title, I thought the premise was pretty stupid and I was not interested. But on Tuesday my friend Kate came to visit, and recommended I see this. She said it's a lot about religion, which had not come through at all in the trailer.

I enjoyed it quite a lot, actually. Any stupid premise can, it seems, support a pretty amusing movie if the lead actor has talent and imagination. In this case, Gervais not only played the lead, but was writer and director.

Mark Bellison (Ricky Gervais) has wanted Anna McDoogles (Jennifer Garner) for a long time. But they live in a world where lying is completely unknown, and even keeping your thoughts to yourself seems pretty uncommon as well. Anna agrees to go on a date with Mark, but frankly admits she considers him a loser, and short, fat, and with a funny nose.

Mark works for a film company that makes educational films. Of course there is no such thing as fiction, or even slanting the truth to make it more interesting. His department is history, and his century is the 14th. He finds it nearly impossible to write a movie script about the Black Plague that is not depressing in the extreme. He gets fired.

The landlord demands the rent, which is $800 when Mark only has about $300 in his account. But something clicks in his brain and he tells the cashier he wants to withdraw $800. To his surprise, the teller gives it to him. He has just discovered (or invented) lying.

There are some silly scenes where he tests his powers that basically make the point: in a world where everyone always tells the truth, a liar will be believed. If you say it, it must be true. He gets rich, of course.

I won't give away how religion comes into it, save to point out that until lying was invented, there was no religion. Of course the old adage is even more true: oh, what a tangled web Mark weaves when first he practices to deceive.

Does he get the girl? Come on, you know the answer to that.

I recognized several of the other actors, like Rob Lowe plays Brad Kessler, the handsome, wealthy and conceited competition for Anna's affection. Actually, it's not so much affection as her selection of the genetic makeup of the father of her children. One of my favorite funny men, John Hodgman, officiates at the wedding in a most unusual chapel, or "quiet place to think about the Man in the Sky." I'm told Tina Fey is also in it, but I didn't recognize her because she didn't look like Sarah Palin.

I enjoyed this film and recommend it. The only reason I gave it four stars instead of five was the first half hour spends way too long setting the premise.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
I really like Ricky Gervais and have for a long time. And he is easily the best thing about this movie. But I think the concept behind this story (a world where nobody lies, nor understands the concept of deceit -- until one day Ricky's character can and does) does not get explored or capitalized on like it should. If fact, the concept misleads a bit.

In this movie's bucolic universe, no one lies and everyone believes everything they are told. The misstep in the script is in how that is shown. There is a difference between not being able to lie and feeling the need to share every thought, no matter how trivial. Just because a person can ONLY tell the truth, it doesn't necessarily follow that everyone should speak their every thought out loud. So we really have TWO premises at work here -- everyone says what's on their mind at all times, and everyone speaks frankly and without tact. Withholding an opinion isn't the same thing as lying, and spouting one's every opinion isn't a requirement of not being able to lie, but this script does not make that distinction.

So we're left with a world where everyone is brutally honest but needlessly so. It's funny at first, but it's a one-joke premise that grows old quickly. It would probably be better as a short skit than a feature-length movie.

Gervais's script wastes little time mocking organized religion as a function of people blindly believing every ludicrous thing they are told. But it plays more like an extended gag that interrupts the main story line, a man-pining-for-beautiful-but-unattainable-girl story.

Because the truth-spouting characters are also incapable of restraint and spew forth every thought they have, some of them -- in particular the lead female character and the object of Gervais' character's desire -- come off as really shallow and unlikeable people. After a while it seems impossible that Gervais' sad-sack character could still be in love with the lead female after all the needlessly horrible things she says to him. I can't understand what he loves about her.

But if he falls out of love with her, the story derails. So it plays out to its inevitable but ultimately illogical conclusion.

Gervais proved with "The Office" (UK version) that he is a gifted writer, actor, and humorist. But this story is half-baked and ultimately emptier than it could have been.

I think there could have been much more interesting material and concepts to be mined from a world where no one except ONE GUY knows how to lie. Instead of swinging for the fences, Gervais seemed content hitting an infield single. The story does stretch a bit to include some sweetness mixed in with the mocking of religion's followers. But I believe that the writers didn't try very hard to have anything important to say or explore.

That's the truth. No lie.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 26, 2011
At of this writing 80 something people loved/liked this film and about the same number hated it.

I can see that some think it is slow -it is- and some wanted huge, I do not know, special effects or fart jokes or slacker humor.

This is a deceptively small, charming, simple movie. For all of its simplicity it has big ideas. Ricky Gervais and Company give you room to think. You can choose to fill the spaces or to fill the quiet. There are heavy questions about seeing beyond the surfaces and questioning your beliefs or you can just stay in the story and forget these questions.
Meantime this is a quiet movie. A funny movie OK a wry smile, rather than belly laugh movie. A genuinely moving movie. It is never sloppy, soppy or over the top. It has faith in its story and tells it without distractions.
Ricky Gervais is spot on, inhabiting his character and totally believable. Jennifer Garner has that same wonderful smile that launched Julia Roberts' film career but her own innocence as a character living in a cynical world.
In classic British acting style - sorry it just does not feel like a Hollywood movie, even bit parts are portrayed like they have a full and complex back stories.
In short a world, almost , mostly and not quite the one we live in is created, and by wonderfully simple story telling we, the audience have the chance to see our world more deeply. In art this is called "defamiliarization" representing familiar things in unfamiliar ways. This movie may not be high art, but it is art.
Minimalism in the service of letting a small story inhabit a large space.
Watch it. Enjoy It. View it more times to savor this peaceful world and maybe even let yourself think.
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