The Definition Of Yawning – Andy Burns on The Invention Of Lying

I remember spending a few nights back in 2004 watching the original BBC version of The Office on DVD. I watched Series 1 and 2 (the Brits don’t divvy their tv shows up by the word “season”, doncha know) along with the Office Special that wrapped the whole thing up nicely. I thought the series was harsh and sad and funny – which is not a bad way to sum up the show’s star, Ricky Gervais. I never latched onto his next series, Extas, though every clip or episode I’ve watched has left me laughing pretty hard (the cameo from David Bowie in one episode is a classic). As well, his video clips for Live 8 were some of the highlights of the show and should have been included on the subsequent DVD release.

Since the success of The Office, Gervais has tried to make a dent into mainstream North America with a series of lead roles in films that nobody goes to see. Ghost Town was one of them, release in 2008 and which came and went with nary a notice. The next The Invention of Lying, which had a decent cast, including Jennifer Garner, Jonah Hill, Rob Lowe, and Tina Fey. It’s this film that The Queen and I settled into watch this past Saturday night, with hopes that it would be funny and entertaining. Sadly, not so much.

I wish I would have enjoyed The Invention of Lying. It has a great premise (a world where everybody tells a lie until one man (guess who)discovers that he can) and a solid group of actors staring in it. The problem was, I just didn’t think the movie was remotely funny. Apart from a few chuckles here and there, I didn’t really laugh at all. And that’s the point of a comedy, right? While the concept was cool, as the film’s 99 minutes dragged on the delivery of people simply telling the truth got old very quickly. It felt like The Invention Of Lying was simply a one joke movie.

The Queen also made mention that Gervais pretty much plays the same style in everything she’s seen him in. There’s definitely some truth to that – while he has the ability to carry a film, there really wasn’t very much great acting going on from him. In fact, there isn’t one line in The Invention Of Lying that I find as memorable as any which delivered at the Golden Globes a few weeks back.

While he’s had some success with his appearances in the Night At The Museum films, I think Gervais would be best served plying his comedy on the small screen or his podcasts, or both, which is what he’s doing with his new HBO series, The Ricky Gervais Show, starring himself, Stephen Merchant, and Gervais’ friend Karl Pilkington. What I’ve seen so far has been pretty funny stuff. Waaaay funnier than The Invention Of Lying, that’s for sure.

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