Sunday, September 27, 2009

Review: The Invention of Lying (2009)

The Invention of Lying
099 minutes
Rated PG-13

by Scott Mendelson

The Invention of Lying is a film that trades in one simplification for another and fails to fully explore either of the two concepts that it pertains to be about. On the surface, it concerns an alternate universe where not one does no one lie, but everyone pretty much speaks whatever happens to be on their mind. This leads to simplistic scenes of waiters wantonly insulting their patrons, co-workers brutally berating their fellow employees, and hospital staff giving brutally honest medical diagnosis to their doomed patients. Cute, but the film never really explores whether or not society could actually function in a world where everyone simply blurted out their inter-most thoughts, be they sexual fantasies or irrational fears.

Alas, before the true consequences of this society can be explored, the film segues into a somewhat unexpected direction that completely dominates the latter half of the picture. While I won't reveal just what occurs at the halfway mark, even this interesting story twist is not truly explored beyond the absolute surface level, and every smart idea that the movie has is held hostage by the conventional romantic subplot about yet another regular-guy (Ricky Gervais) trying to score with an out-of-his-league beauty (Jennifer Garner).

There are laughs to be had amongst the large cast (Tina Fey, Rob Lowe, Edward Norton, Jonah Hill, Louis C.K., and Jeffrey Tambor are among those who make extended cameos), but the world where no one lies and the world where no one believes in anything not established by science is not really explored in any depth beyond its use for a generic romantic comedy. Any ideas concerning the need for occasional white-lies for the sake of human decency was already explored in Liar, Liar back in 1997. The Invention of Lying is not a stupid film, but it doesn't have nearly enough on its mind.

Grade: C-

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