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The Invention of Lying(2009)
In an alternate reality, lying -- even the concept of a lie -- does not even exist. Everyone -- from politicians to advertisers to the man and woman on the street -- speaks the truth and nothing but the truth with no thought of the consequences. But when a down-on-his-luck loser named Mark suddenly develops the ability to lie, he finds that dishonesty has its rewards. In a world where every word is assumed to be the absolute truth, Mark easily lies his way to fame and fortune. But lies have a way of spreading, and Mark begins to realize that things are getting a little out of control when some of his tallest tales are being taken as, well, gospel. With the entire world now hanging on his every word, there is only one thing Mark has not been able to lie his way into: the heart of the woman he loves.
For more about The Invention of Lying and the The Invention of Lying Blu-ray release, see the The Invention of Lying Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on January 12, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Ricky Gervais, Jennifer Garner, Jonah Hill, Rob Lowe, Tina Fey, Louis C.K.
Directors: Ricky Gervais, Matthew Robinson
» See full cast & crew
The Invention of Lying Blu-ray Review
A bait-n-switch romantic comedy gets buried beneath its own gimmick...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, January 12, 2010
Brace yourself, dear readers. It's impossible to discuss The Invention of Lying without discussing religion. Though Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson's first feature film has been cleverly billed as a lighthearted romantic comedy -- ironically with one of the most deceitful, intentionally misleading ad campaigns I've seen -- it aims its guns much higher. Much higher. The Invention of Lying is about the invention of God, the evils of religion and the woes of blind faith; a thinly veiled satire that rehashes a centuries-old argument without offering anything of intellectual or satirical merit. It mocks belief without attempting to paint a fittingly skewed picture; without ever dissecting its nuances or motivations. It takes pot shots without really examining much of anything it sets in its sights. Worse, it inadvertently undermines the very nature of love and the essence of compassion without batting an eye. No, there aren't a handful of scenes wherein an unassuming fellow is mistaken for the Almighty (ŕ la The Life of Brian), and no, it isn't merely a secondary subplot sensitive viewers have blown out of proportion. Despite what its trailers might suggest, faith and its purported ills are the central focus. Gervais has said as much in interviews. Be that as it may, the film amounts to little more than a cold, surprisingly preachy, at-times humorless romcom that, in its arrogant pursuit of what it considers a cheeky fight, drowns in the same philosophy it seems so desperate to advance.
Meet Mark Bellison (Ricky Gervais), a down-on-his-luck screenwriter whose job is in jeopardy, who continually fails to win the heart of the woman he loves (Jennifer Garner), and whose mother (Fionnula Flanagan) is wasting away in a retirement home. Nothing about the overweight, middle-aged loser is special; nothing about his life is unique... that is until he develops a trait no one else on the planet has ever developed: the ability to lie. Oh, did I forget to mention everyone in Mark's world is completely incapable of deception, dishonesty or duplicity? Sorry, my mistake. After using his newfound talents to rack up a substantial amount of money, after wowing his coworkers and employers with a fictional screenplay they naturally assume is an unearthed historical tome, Mark begins to think his luck is improving. However, when a small group of gullible hospital workers overhear him reassuring his dying mother with stories of a wondrous afterlife, all hell breaks loose. Attributing his knowledge of such things to frequent conversations with an invisible "man in the sky," Mark attracts an enormous crowd, international attention, and worldwide notoriety. Before long, the hungry masses leave him with little choice but to continue lying. Scribbling ten rules for living on a pair of Pizza Hut boxes, Bellison descends from his sixth floor Sinai to soothe those who've gathered on his front lawn. But, to his dismay, after conceiving the world's first religion and detailing the mysterious nature and unreasonable expectations of the Man in the Sky, Mark begins to realize his tall tales are having countless negative effects on everyone who hears them.
As high-concept as it may sound, there are a number of fundamental problems with Gervais and Robinson's setup and script. Mark's naive brethren aren't simply men and women who tell the truth. They're unlikable, mean-spirited, short-sighted nitwits who say anything and everything that comes to mind. In their world, honesty negates self-control, kindness, tact, patience, civility and more, leaving its citizenry with little choice but to spout out everything they think of as if Tourette syndrome were the flavor of the day. The result? Dishonesty becomes a bizarrely bonding force while Mark, the well-intentioned liar and occasional opportunist that he is, is hoisted up as an enlightened messiah; one who eventually stumbles as readily as his teachings. Don't get me wrong, I understand all too well the broad-stokes metaphor the filmmakers are presenting -- a fifth grader could dissect such obvious subtext -- but, even for an absurdist comedy, it all crumbles beneath the weight of its own internal logic (or lack thereof). After forty semi-memorable minutes, humor all but disappears, replaced by the incessant rum-tum-tum of a rickety drum designed to drive the film's spiritless message along. Truth be told though, I hesitate to even call it a message. I'm not sure what Gervais and Robinson are trying to say with such a callous satire (other than there is no god and anyone who believes in such a thing is an irrational idiot), but I'm still struggling to understand what, if anything, viewers are supposed to take away from its indictment of religion and apply to their lives.
A comedy doesn't have to make sound sense, mind you. It doesn't have to have a point at all. But when it's as smug, self-important and self-righteous as The Invention of Lying can be, when it's willing to forgo humor to further an agenda, it needs to prove its lost laughs haven't been sacrificed in vain. As it stands, the film is martyred for a cause its filmmakers fail to substantiate. While I admittedly laughed out loud quite a few times during the first act -- a near-hilarious parade of cameos feature appearances by Edward Norton, Jason Bateman, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Tambor, Jonah Hill, and Tina Fey, among others -- any affection I had was exhausted long before Robinson and Gervais began indulging in whatever you call Bible-thumping's atheistic equivalent. The pair haphazardly dart towards rationalization, but edge closer and closer to hypocrisy. They rally against the heavens, but bring cardboard swords to the fight. I'm sure those who share Invention's sensibilities and beliefs will adore the jabs it takes at religion and faith. "Finally! A message-film for us," the more passionate skeptics among you might even exclaim. But long after its mystique has worn off, long after the thrill of its two-dimensional barbs have faded away, those who appreciate The Invention of Lying will be left with a dull, uneventful comedy that drastically loses momentum even before it plays its hand early in the second act. Had its satire been centered around a near-perfect world undone by the introduction of dishonesty and religion, it would have been a far more effective comedy. For whatever reason though, Gervais and Robinson rarely follow through with their widely publicized intentions, settling on indifference above all else.
There will be those who accuse me of being close-minded and easily offended, but it takes sharper, sterner, smarter stuff than The Invention of Lying to ruffle these grizzled feathers. It's simply a muddled romcom that gets lost in its own proselytizing. It never strikes a balance between its humor and doctrine, scurrying to one or the other whenever the already shaky plot demands it do so. At its best when examining the tumultuous perils of honest relationships, it falters every time it shifts focus. But even at its best, its characters are brash and unlovable; its unscrupulous protagonist provides the only hint of humanity the film has to offer. Moreover, its story collapses under the slightest scrutiny, plot holes abound, and its conceptual script rarely translates into a cohesive farce. Ultimately, the religious will balk at its sermon, atheists will applaud its brazen assault on belief whilst concealing their distaste for its lesser qualities, and agnostics will wonder why so much fuss is being generated around what's essentially a boorish, second-rate romantic comedy. Whichever camp you fall into, consider yourself warned.
The Invention of Lying Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Invention of Lying descends with an unremarkable, unexpectedly unattractive 1080p/VC-1 transfer that, despite its low-key visuals and limited depth, nevertheless appears to be fairly faithful to its exceedingly flat source. Color vibrancy is adequate and skintones remain natural throughout, but inconsistent detailing and dull contrast conceive some rather two-dimensional offspring. Likewise, blacks are well-resolved and closeups exhibit many of the qualities of a decent high definition presentation, but soupy textures and mushy grain left me wondering if DNR was rearing its ugly head. Thankfully, Warner's technical transfer is quite proficient -- artifacting, banding, aliasing, crush, unintentional noise, and other unsightly unmentionables are nowhere to be found -- and clarity is satisfying enough to warrant the above average score I'm preparing to award it. Edge enhancement is apparent throughout and several faint halos haunt a number of wide shots, but it never becomes a significant distraction. With an aesthetic reminiscent of Disney's Extract, it's difficult to tell whether Warner's presentation or Gervais and Robinson's bland photography is to blame for the film's underwhelming appearance. While I suspect the latter, I would suggest viewers prepare themselves accordingly.
The Invention of Lying Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Although The Invention of Lying's dreary Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track suffers the same fate, its original mix has little to offer listeners aside from conventional conversations, Tim Atack's nimble musical score, and a variety of unassuming sound effects. Dialogue, though subdued at times, is crisp and intelligible from beginning to end. LFE support, while restrained, manages to lend weight and presence to voices and a handful of songs that play during the film's montages. Rear speaker activity takes the biggest hit -- a packed conference room, a congested front lawn, several bustling restaurants, and a crowded church provide the soundfield with a few minor standout sequences -- but interior acoustics and ambience are fairly consistent (albeit entirely forgettable). Ah well, to the track's credit, pans are transparent, dynamics are decent, and directionality is relatively accurate. Some more power would have been nice, but the studio has done a fine job reproducing the limited source it's been handed. Fans of the film will be pleased, even if the experience isn't a distinguished one.
The Invention of Lying Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Sadly, The Invention of Lying hobbles onto Blu-ray with the same erratic, haphazard supplemental package as its DVD counterpart. The particulars of the production remain a mystery, legitimate behind-the-scenes material is practically non-existent, and a much-need commentary is nowhere to be found. It doesn't help that all of the video content is presented in standard definition.
The Invention of Lying Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Proponents and opponents can debate The Invention of Lying's controversial message till they're Blu in the face, but they'll be wasting their breath. Whether you place your faith in God or Nothingness, it's incredibly difficult to enjoy Gervais and Robinson's film simply because it's a flawed, hit-or-miss romcom populated by unlikable characters who mill about their some rather aimless existences. The Blu-ray edition isn't much better. With an underwhelming AV presentation and a minimalistic supplemental package, it isn't the sort of release that will garner any attention beyond the film itself. I'm sure The Invention of Lying will find a faithful fanbase, but I imagine most of its disciples will embrace it for its message rather than its humor or cinematic value. If it still sounds appealing, hedge your bets and stick with a rental.
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The Invention of Lying Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Invention of Lying Blu-ray Gets Dated (Update) - December 3, 2009
Warner Home Video has announced that it will release 'The Invention of Lying' on January 19, 2010. Disc details and special features haven't been revealed, although the studio promises "over one hour of more laughs" and a digital copy of this comedy, starring, ...
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