The Invention of Lying

Light-hearted movie that I suppose could be called a romantic comedy with a fantasy twist:

Like the old saying goes, in a world of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.  Similarly, the story takes place in an alternate universe in which no one can tell a lie.  As a result, everyone is extremely gullible, because there’s no reason to question what anyone else is saying.  Ricky Gervais plays Mark, a hapless writer, who discovers the ability to tell a lie.  If he tells a bank there’s money in his account, the teller will give it to him without batting an eye.  If he announces that he saved a baby from a burning building, no one questions it.

For comic effect, the movie expands the principle to beyond just everyone telling the truth to everyone blurting out what they’re thinking, and I’m not sure how the two go together.  It’s one thing for a man to tell his boss he’s not coming into work, not because he’s sick, but because he hates the job.  It’s another for a waiter to announce that he’s had a sip of the drink you ordered.

Anyway, Mark’s new ability to tell lies leads him to invent Heaven to console his dying mother, which then blossoms into Mark styling himself a prophet of the never-before-heard-of “Man in the Sky.”  Mark tells the crowds that God wants them to be good and nice, and if they are they’ll get mansions after they die, which of course everyone finds a great relief.  But Mark is unhappy, because Anna, the girl of his dreams, (played by the lovely Jennifer Garner) finds him unattractive, albeit friendly and kind, and she will be soon married to a vain but good-looking man played well by Rob Lowe.

All in all, the story seems enough to fill a half-hour comedy show, but by the end it’s wearying trying to understand why people feel compelled to tell each other that they are so miserable.  The story ends on a cliche, with a race to the church to object to the wedding.  Still, it’s a clever idea and the actors appear to have fun with the concept.

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