Monday 5 October 2009

Review: The Invention of Lying

Year: 2009
Director: Ricky Grevais, Matt Robinson
Screenplay: Ricky Grevais, Matt Robinson
Starring: Ricky Grevais, Jennifer Garner, Rob Lowe

Plot Synopsis is here

I found two reviews of Ricky Grevais debut feature film comedy that are so far apart it's almost untrue. The first is a damming review by Empire while the second is a glowing one from Roger Ebert. It would be easy to get into personal snipes at Eberts "leniency" or Empire's "dubious" ratings, but it's best not. A part of me would like to think the reason for such a difference in opinion is a cross-Atlantic one. The U.S are now in love with our comic import at this moment while we've had the guy for quite a while, So while his popularity is at its peak with the yanks, in Blighty our usual lack of patience for anyone successful is beginning to show.

After watching the film I almost felt that both reviews were right, leaving my opinion rather in the middle. Ebert considers the film to be quite radical and indeed I found myself astonished at moments of he film. By subverting it's simple idea, the film manages to allow some heavy moments to slip out of it's goofy outer shell. The film may look happy go lucky but the material sheds some light on some dark aspects of humanity. I won't say too much but I found it's talk on religion to be quite startling, not because I believe but more that the film gets away with it. It's this frank look at some of the "big" questions that shows that Grevais (a self-confessed Athieist) is clearly in the driving seat of this and many of his comedy vehicles and not Stephen Merchant as the Empire review mockingly states.

However, with a film willing to expand it's themes beyond the average comedy, it's a shame that the film is so one note in actual jokes. The Invention of Lying believes that in a world were everyone is compelled to tell the truth, they are all arseholes. Sympathy is not an option here and the film wishes to tell us this at length. Truth means insults here and apart from maybe one scene, everyone who tells the truth must not only do it bluntly but with added hatred. The (only) gag gets tired very quickly and despite some inspired moments (the coke/pepsi joke is amusing) the comedy struggles to keep up with the grander themes that the film wanted to look into.

When it comes to performances, it all depends on how you feel about Ricky Grevais. It's a very typical Grevais delivery which is of course well timed but just like maramite you'll either cry laughing or break you teeth from all the grinding you'll be doing. Jennifer Garner and Rob Lowe have their moments but due to the lack of depth with the comedy you will soon grow tired of their insults. The film is also filled with needless celebrity cameos which range from funny to bland. It's clear that the only reason for them is of course the amount of influence that Grevais has now, however it does nothing to enhance the movie in any way.

A first time co directional debut (with Matt Robinson) for Grevais, The Invention of Lying is intermittently funny and struggles to find the balance of great involving comedy and the grand themes it tries to bring about. Die hards will of course love what Mr Brent has got to offer this time, however those like the writers at Empire who have appeared to have grown weary of the man may wish to look elsewhere.

Hear Byron talk more about this movie at geekplanetonline