The Invention of Lying

Good Intentions but a Misfire


02 October 2009| No Comments on The Invention of Lying     by Sean Chavel


Somebody should do a remake of The Invention of Lying real soon. Here was a great idea for a comedy. Yet with this end result the concept is much more brave than the screenplay execution is, which reaches its peak early and never ups the ante on the stakes. The movie is the invention, err creation, of Ricky Gervais who also stars. Gervais is a sweet, shy fellow as Mark Bellison who to his detriment is spineless. Jennifer Garner is the unattainable, err hard to attain, love object in his life. Character arc dictates that Bellison must become less spineless to attain the things in life he wants.

Now how about this for concept: In an alternate reality that mirrors our own only in physical urban landscape the notion of lying does not exist. Nobody has ever not told the truth or been absolutely forthright in what they are thinking. Bellison arrives for his first date with the unattainable Anna (Garner) and she tells him that he has no chance, this is probably the last date, that she is only going out with him out of politeness. When Bellison loses his job as a screenwriter of overly honest and earnest history films (his domain are stories about the 13thcentury), everybody at the office informs him that they are glad he’s gone.

When the insignificant and ineffectual chub is unable to pay the rent, he tells the first lie that man has ever told so he can hang on above poverty level – an exhilarating special-effects rush to the head is employed to kick-start this impulse. Then he realizes he can exploit this device to trick beautiful women to pay attention to him, trick the games tables at casinos, and trick deadbeats at the local pub that he is a pirate, a lion tamer and the inventor of the bicycle among other things.

An early storytelling mistake utilizes a montage showing Bellison fixing up local people who have been saddled with problems – this is a movie that should be exploiting verbal wit and not music montages. Back to essentials: After a slip of the tongue, Bellison must make up big, big lies. By mishap, Bellison becomes the new Moses to the people of the world and tells him he can talk to the Man in the Sky. But personal self-actualization demands that Bellison get the girl, become the most famous screenwriter, and convince the world that he is a better man than his adversary played by Rob Lowe. You know, the guy with the perfect profile.

Gervais is known as an entertainer who falls back on self-deprecating humor, but throughout this particular effort, it unremittingly feels like a self-pity act. This constant mode is either endearing or annoying depending on what kind of audience member you are. But what it comes down to is Gervais getting over his poor self-image and becoming content with himself, all at the expense of a great story idea that should have way more fun with its concept. “Lying” might make you wish that Gervais would sell his story ideas to someone like Mike Judge who would run with this material like a renegade.

With Rob Lowe, Tina Fey, Jonah Hill and Jeffrey Tambor.

100 Minutes. Rated PG-13.


Film Cousins: “Logan’s Run” (1976); “The Purple Rose of Cairo” (1985); “City of Ember” (2008); “Ghost Town” (2008).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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