I think few, if any, people in TV or film history have reached the level of unwavering critical adoration as Ricky Gervais. He has somehow become the decade's comedy messiah, with several A list stars eager to jump the Gervais train, as evidenced by Extras, which for a BBC comedy scored a big ass list of American movie stars. It is also evident in this movie too, in which several acting giants stop by to wave at the camera. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Edward Norton, 30 Rock's Tina Fey and The awesome Jason Bateman all appear in one scene parts, presumably because of the sheer power of the man that is, because it certainly wasn't the script. Because after Ghost Town, this is a fairly ominous strike two as far as Gervais and movies are concerned.
The Invention Of Lying is essentially a Jim Carrey vehicle, with a deadpan Brit in the lead. But the thing about broad high-concept comedies is that they need a Carrey to hold it together, but the problem here is that this movie believes itself to be much cleverer then it actually is, and while I guess the idea could have supported a great comedy if done right, the execution of the script and direction is just so obvious and lazy that you replace Gervais with, I don't know, Matthew McConaughey and you've got a film to get critics revving up their chainsaws. But the mere presence of the man, makes you pre over-estimate and expect something more then a weakly generic, repetitive and mawkish romantic comedy. Which is what this is. To be fair it attempts at one point to introduce some religious satire, and I suppose it did try to be something, but it followed the scent of its own self-satisfaction back to all the cliches a below average PG-13/12A comedy would have. Gervais is OK, although I have to say he blew his big dramatic scene with his dying mum, caught the guy acting a little bit there. He was better in Ghost Town though. Jennifer Garner, who shot-gunned her Juno credibility to sea by having a 2009 that included both this and The Ghosts of girlfriends past, which did in fact star Matthew McConaughey. Playing second-fiddle in two male-led rom coms is never a good idea. I enjoyed Rob Lowe's character, incredibly douchey romantic rival, and he did some high quality under-playing. Even if he was playing a lame caricature.
But a good idea becomes a bad idea when executed in such an under-whelming way and while maybe there are a couple of laughs to be had, the thing drags and the last half hour was beyond repetitive. Cemetery Junction better be good Gervais, otherwise that's strike three.