Were The Twilight Zone to approach English comedian Ricky Gervais to direct an episode for one of their seasons, the end result would probably resemble something like The Invention of Lying. Well, if Rod Serling could get past some of the distasteful jokes, that is. But besides that, the story of a man who lives in the world where everyone tells the absolute truth isn’t bad at all, even a little heartwarming.
In this alternate universe, everyone tells the absolute truth, which is to say, they tell more of an exaggerated truth. If you were to ask someone how they were, instead of being moderately truthful and saying “I’m fine”, they would give you a detailed answer saying something like “Well, I’m not great, I have plans to commit suicide, but I couldn’t force myself to down all the pills”. The latter quite is actually said by Johan Hill, a brief co-star in the film.
The beginning of the film is rather shaky, as the jokes are trying too hard to make the truth the absolute truth, making it seem overly exaggerated. Gervais begins the film arriving at the apartment of his date, the gorgeous Jennifer Garner, who plays Anna. Gervais’ Mark Bellison is wonderfully awkward and slightly sheepish, which makes him all the more pitiable. Of course, the date goes badly, her being brutally honest about him being “fat, and snub nosed”.
In this alternate universe, there are no movies, there aren’t even documentaries. What they are are lectures on film read by famous people. Mark is a screenwriter, one who has decided to adapt the Black Plague to the screen, a subject that many of his co-workers expect to be dull and terrible. Too brief is an appearance by Tina Fey as Mark’s secretary.
Really, once we get past the rocky beginning, the film picks up pace, even though Mark gets fired, dumped, and evicted. He goes to the back and even though he only has $300 of the needed $800 for his rent, he takes out all he has. Quite luckily, the computer system at the bank is down, so he tells them $800. This is the lie that’s heard ‘round the world. Sort of.
An interesting aspect of the film is that one of the lies he tells becomes a mild commentary on religion itself. He describes to his dying mother a heaven filled with happiness, mansions, and candy, and naturally the other want to know more. And what happens is the “biggest lie in the world” is told, depending on your views on religion. He begins to talk about “the Big Man in the Sky” and his Ten Rules. Nope, not on tablets, but on pizza boxes. The studio that fired him brings him back to adapt the stories to the screen.
Rob Lowe plays mark’s rival, a successful, suave, and handsome screenwriter who is lauded for his scripts and Anna’s ideal mate. Not because he cares about her, but because he can give her exactly what she wants in her life: genetically beautiful children. Lowe is really good playing a jerk. This slick hair and glasses make him look like he’s just waiting to say something like “Hello, I’m more successful, smarter, and better than you.”
Anna McDoogal is sweet and funny and completely out of Mark’s league. I always root for the underdog in situations like this. He genuinely cares for her and knows her personality, and she begins to love him within her heart, and what follows is a sweet and maybe even a little beautiful climax to an enjoyable film.
Debatable on how it handles religion; the film is nevertheless entertaining, funny, and sweet.