THE INVENTION OF LYING
Over the weekend I used a Redbox kiosk for the first time. Now I realize why they are taking off like wildfire. You can pre-order from the internet and know exactly which movie is available from a designated kiosk. Once you find the movie you want and reserved it, you drive down a couple blocks to the nearest McDonald’s and pick it up. The interface on the touch screen is so simple. You tap a button, scan your credit card and out comes the movie. The next day you bring it back. And it’s only $1.00. Of course it was right outside McD so I also bought an Oreo McFlurry for dessert. A movie, dessert, and I’m still under the price ceiling that I would have cleared going to Blockbuster. This is the future of movies.
The Invention of Lying however, is not the future of movies (see what I did there). It’s a couple steps back, especially for a comedy starring Ricky Gervais, who I think is a truly talented and funny guy. I enjoyed Ghost Town a lot, and I think most critics did too. And I think no one appreciated him hosting the ’10 Golden Globes as much as I did. Which is good – gigs like that and the lukewarm responses will only keep him pushing more. There comes a point for comedians where they can coast downhill in neutral for awhile. I believe when The Office came to America and had a longer, more successful run than his British counterpart, that probably set a fire inside of him. Maybe it made him more bitter. Whatever happened as a result of that (besides making him richer than God), he’s been making movies lately that have a higher than high concept to them which anchors him squarely as the outsider, the guy who doesn’t belong in it because he’s one of us, the everyman. In Ghost Town, it’s the ability to talk to…Ghosts. In Lying, it’s the ability to talk but not say the whole truth or misrepresent it entirely aka lying.
Between these two projects I guess Lying was the trickier one to pull off. You just go with the premise, and hope it leads to funny moments. It kept me engaged the whole time, since I was constantly analyzing the lies versus what they would have said in our world, where we do nothing but lie all the time. I think I caught myself enjoying some of that. After about an hour or so in, the plot shifts gears a bit and it feels like it begins to digress.
It’s when Ricky addresses God, or The Man in the Sky. Ricky tells his dying mother she’ll be reunited with her loved ones and join the Man in the Sky. She’s scared, he says it to calm her down but doesn’t actually believe it. It freaks everybody out. He gets very popular and people demand to know more about what’s waiting for them. So he creates two tablets from Pizza Hut boxes to address what he knows about The Man in the Sky. He holds an outdoor conference of sorts to go over things. So what this movie is saying, I think, is that in a world where no one ever lies, God would not exist. God is a lie. This concept creates a great drinking game for the viewer. The rule is simple: go back through the movie and find anything that seems like it could be inspired by God, which did not exist until Ricky said He did. When you find one, take a shot of motor oil or vodka, whatever. The most immediate example I can think of is the church at the end of the movie. But it seems like it was built after Ricky talked about the Man in the Sky, or he actually commissioned the construction himself because there’s a stained glass painting of Ricky holding his two tablets. Regardless, I’m sure there are plenty of other examples before that.
One quick word about Rob Lowe’s appearance in this as the slimy Brad Kessler. Rob tends to get cast as the slime ball in most of his roles because he’s just that damn good at it. And in most movies he’s usually ruining relationships by marrying someone. Look at Paul Barish from Tommy Boy. He marries Tommy’s mom. Or his turn as Benjamin Kane in Wayne’s World. Wayne has to save Cassandra from marrying him. And here again he comes dangerously close to tying the knot with someone he shouldn’t be tying the knot with. If there’s any other movie I neglected to add that features Rob Lowe as a slimeball marrying someone when he isn’t supposed to, please let me know. I think there must be some subconscious association for casting directors since they keep putting him in those roles. I just want to go on the record about this and say I have begun seeing a pattern here.
In the long run I’m sure Gervais will have, this movie will be more of a minor note than his others. But in no way does this change how I feel about him as a comedian. Go get ’em Ricky.