Ricky Gervais has a cult following in America for his work on the British version of The Office. The show didn’t hit cultural saturation stateside (though it is a masterpiece), it did inspire the American version, and Gervais made some in-roads with HBO-released Extras. Cinematically, he made a cameo in Stardust, and they have now given him two films to star in: Ghost Town, a more standardized romantic comedy, and The Invention of Lying, which was more in tune with his comic sensibilities. It also attracted a great deal of talent, which speaks to Gervais’s power in the community. In the film are Tina Fey, Jonah Hill, Louis C.K., Rob Lowe, Jeffery Tambor, Jennifer Garner, and a number of high profile cameos. Unfortunately for Gervais, neither did all that well, but both are fun to watch. The Invention of Lying stars Gervais as the first person to ever figure out lying in world where lying never existed before. My review of The Invention of Lying Blu-ray after the jump.
The conceit of the film is fascinating as everyone tells each other the truth. The film opens with Gervais’s Mark Bellison meeting Jennifer Garner’s Anna McDoogles for a date. She answers the door by saying that he’s early and she was just masturbating. He responds that that makes him think of her vagina. Mark is at a low point in his life as he’s about to be fired and doesn’t know what he’s going to do for rent, and the date ends on a mostly negative note (she seems to like him, but not physically attractive). After losing his job he heads to the bank and somehow figures out to say something that isn’t true (they don’t even have a word for true), and is able to pay his rent. With his power he decides to test it, first on women (which goes poorly), and then out gambling.
If I had a big criticism of the film, it’s that it’s not a very big movie, and the casino scene appears to have been shot at a lodge. The film was written and directed by Matthew Robinson and Ricky Gervais, and the film seems more geared towards the writing than the directing as it doesn’t seem all that visually-minded. But then not many comedies are. As that is the case it plays much better at home, where that doesn’t seem as noticeable. Surely the film was done on a budget, partly because of the thing that makes it one of the most subversive films of its year. And that’s one of the big reveals in the movie is that in this world (SPOILERS) Mark invents religion. And for a film to present that idea in the middle of a mainstream comedy is one of the ballsiest things I’ve seen in a comedy ever.
This leads to some funny religious jokes as Mark becomes a prophet, but the third act partly becomes about the love story, as Rob Lowe’s character romances Garner. Part of me wishes they had found a way to go full Wet Hot American Summer with this, but the ending works in context well enough. There are enough comic voices to keep it interesting, and a number of cameos, with the best of the bunch being an actor playing a crooked cop. The ideas may be bigger than the movie, but there are a number of great jokes and bits throughout.
Warner Brothers presents the film on Blu-ray with a digital copy. The film is presented widescreen (1.78:1) and in Dolby Digital 5.1 TrueHD. The transfer is immaculate. There’s a deleted opening (7 min.) with narration by Patrick Stewart that sets up a word without lying, along with five deleted scenes (7 min.), including more footage of Christopher Guest as a reader of the factual narratives that make up cinema in this world. “Meet Karl Plinkington” (18 min.) has one of Gervais’s friends coming to set to have a cameo, only to get humiliated by Gervais and then cut out of the film. There’s a making of (7 min.), four of “Ricky and Matt’s Video Podcasts” (10 min.) during the shooting, and “More Laughter: Corpsing and Outtakes” (6 min.). Corpsing is when you break out laughing during a take and Gervais is known for this, so there’s a chunk of footage of him losing it.