“The Invention Of Lying” is as dull as its title. Sorry to say this, particularly as Ricky probably still has a flat around here and he takes criticism badly, but “The Invention Of Lying” stunk. And it stunk because it didn’t think through its premise enough. I am no stranger to world building, and this one is fine. A world where people are just like us, as the clunky voiceover begins, except no-one lies. No-one knows how to lie, tell stories which are not 100% factual and true. Fine. I can take that as far as it goes, but the ability to conceive of things which are not true is so fundamental to humanity that it actually topples the entire film.

Actually it doesn’t. What topples the film is the BIG idea of the film being subsumed into a plea for little, slightly pudgy, snub nosed blokes who look like Ricky Gervais to be considered as attractive and shag whoever they like. This is a problem because as someone who fits in the group of little, slightly bellied thirty something blokes I am exactly who this film wants to create romantic restitution for, and even I think that the pleading is a bit specialist and aimed at a group for whom life really isn’t all that bad. In a world (sorry IN A WORLD) where no-one lies that might be an issue. But actually in a world where no-one lies it doesn’t follow that every sexual match is one which must follow the idea of a scientific best match. Because this in itself raises two fundamental issues. Firstly that deep down this film believes that love must be a lie if no-one seems to have it. But much more importantly it flags up the flaw in the world building. Because a world without lying, or particularly a world without a usable concept of falsehood CAN HAVE NO SCIENCE.

This point was clear to me the moment the film started banging on about genetic matches. How did this society come up with the theory of evolution? Just because they never lie, it does not mean they are born with “THE TRUTH” in their bonce (look how they react to Ricky’s poorly thought through religion, or indeed EVERY STUPID THING THE JENNIFER GARNER CHARACTER SAYS*). So somewhere along the line an analog of Darwin had to start considering various ways life may have developed. He would need to concoct a theory. Which is, in its simplest state, an unproven hypothesis, a potential falsehood. To test it, it has to be stated. The only way of doing science is to disprove a theory. To make it false. But the moment you prove that rabbits are not just hares bred with toads, you have a statement, a hypothesis, which you have disproven. Its false. It exists, but it is now a lie.

All of this makes the film uneasy. As does Ricky’s response to learning how to lie, which is never to teach anyone else how to lie (even though surely his contradictory statement will be chipping away at them). The lurch into self pitying romcom is disappointing, but certainly doesn’t offer any less in the shape of humour that the previous humourless hour. There are three good gags in the film: the invention of religion – which is touch neutered by massive product placement. The clunky voiceover in the first two seconds which makes fun of producers credits. And tellingly the Steven Merchant / Barry cameo. Much of the rest of it is plainly embarrassing. Scientifically proven.

*I am not sure if Garner is either a terrific comedy actress acting in a completely different film to everyone else, or a terrible comic actress standing out because she is trying too hard. I am tempted to think it might be the first, and she is just written so badly – bearing in mind she has to play a character with some sort of truth tourettes who has to fall in love with Ricky Gervais despite there being nothing all that likeable about this wretched character.

Do You See   Film