The Invention of LyingFor those who don’t know who Ricky Gervais is and who watch The Office (which is most of you I assume), shame be on you. Gervais is the creator of the British (and original) version of The Office and a famous stand-up comedian. The past couple of years he has made his transition to Hollywood and has now released his second starring film, The Invention of Lying.

I consider Ricky Gervais to be one of the funniest and wittiest comedians around. I was also one of 5 people who paid money to see his film last year, Ghost Town, and I quite enjoyed it. Understandably, I went into The Invention of Lying with high expectations despite the so-so reviews it has received. Even though its a variation of Liar, Liar, the film has an interesting concept. The problem with the film, however, is Gervais’ inability to turn the concept into an imaginative story.

Ricky Gervais does here what he does best: be witty, sarcastic, and dry. In fact, if you like his style of humor, then you’re in for a treat. The concept of the film involves a world where no one ever tells a lie. In other words, its a world where everyone acts like Ricky Gervais. Gervais is funny as usual and he even gets an opportunity to show off his dramatic side. One scene in particular moved me enough to bring tears to my eyes. As for the remainder of the cast, I was struck by how star-studded it was. Besides Jennifer Garner, the love interest, we also get Rob Lowe, Jonah Hill, Jeffrey Tambor, a hilarious Tina Fey, and cameos by Jason Bateman, Christopher Guest, and Edward Norton. Every actor gives commendable and funny performances here. My only gripe about the cast was the choice of Garner for the leading female role. Her part didn’t require a performance of Shakespearian proportions, but she failed to not only convince me, more importantly, there was no chemistry between she and Gervais. Worse, I felt her character was unlikeable. From the beginning to almost the end, Garner’s only goal in life is to produce perfect babies and live a life of economic stability and luxury. For a good portion of the film, Garner expresses her total lack of interest in Gervais, which made me wonder why in hell he continues to pursue her when, after he gains fame, he could get anyone he wants. A final character worth mentioning is Rob Lowe’s character, antagonist to Gervais’ character. Lowe hams up his performance to the hilt and does it well. He takes advantage of his pretty boy looks to play the smarmy arrogant asshole, which is a role Lowe seems to have become quite adept at playing over the years.

This film mainly suffers from being unable to go beyond being a skit. The first act of the film is spent introducing us to the world the characters inhabit, which is one where no one lies. This gives Gervais a lot of opportunities to be funny and showcase his humor. Unfortunately, once Gervais settles us into this world, he doesn’t know where to go from there. Instead of playing with the many possible situations such an idea presents, Gervais settles for the standard and contrived story of boy meets girl, girl doesn’t like boy, boy tries to get girl, boy gets girl at the end. Its as if Gervais hit a wall in writing the screenplay and just gave up by resorting to something so cliche. This isn’t to say there are not wonderful moments in the film. (*SPOILER ALERT*) Two particular scenes stood out for me as imaginative and moving. In one, Gervais’ mother is dying in a hospital. She is afraid of the prospect of dying and spending eternity in nothingness. To comfort his dying mother, Gervais tells her that rather than simply die, she will spend eternity living in a huge mansion surrounded by all her friends and family. I don’t do the scene justice with my explanation, but it is a very moving scene. The second scene involves Gervais explaining to the masses that there is a “Man in the Sky” who controls all earthly matters and that once we die, we will spend eternity in paradise so long as we have not led evil lives. Of course, Gervais is introducing the concept of God to his world. The interaction between Gervais and the crowd of people bombarding him with questions is funny and it was one of the woefully few creative ideas the film had.

Overall, The Invention of Lying is not a bad film, especially during its first half where its actually good. Unfortunately, the second half of the film turns into a sappy uninspired romantic comedy without much comedy. The film fails to fully tap into Ricky Gervais’ talents and we’re left with a shadow of what he is capable of. If you’re going to see this film, I recommend you wait for the Blu-ray.