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The Invention of Lying: Movie Review

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The Invention of Lying is a disappointing, lackluster comedy about an ordinary fellow living in a world where people only tell the truth, who discovers how to lie and ends up using it to make his life and the world a better place.

Mark Bellison (played by Ricky Gervais) is a rather unremarkable, so-called loser. He lives in an alternate reality in which lying – even the concept of a lie – does not exist. Everyone speaks the truth blatantly with no thought or consideration for others. Having been fired from his job, Mark finds himself short on cash with his rent due and decides to lie to the bank teller about the amount of money in his account. Well, in a world where every word is assumed to be absolute truth, Mark easily gets the money he needs and realizes that his newfound ability will help him rise to fame and fortune, and possibly help him win the girl of his dreams, Anna, played by Jennifer Garner. He even discovers that telling lies can make the people around him happier and more at peace.

As his sick mother lays dying in the hospital fearing the empty nothingness waiting for her, Mark tells her that she will go to a place where there is eternal love and happiness, and that there will be mansion waiting for her there. Hospital employees who believe he is telling the truth overhear his lies about the afterlife. This propels Mark to the center of the world’s attention, as people are desperate to know what happens to them when they die. Not wanting to admit his guilt, Mark soon finds himself inventing the biggest lie of all – that there is a “man in the sky” who controls everything.

Mark perpetuates his lie by writing ten “rules” about the “man in the sky” and the afterlife on two pizza box “tablets” – rules like everyone will get free ice cream when they die, if you do bad things you will go to a bad place, the “man in the sky” decides who lives and who dies as well as who goes to the good place and who goes to the bad place, the “man in the sky” is responsible for all the good things and bad things that happen in the world, and, even if the “man in the sky” does bad stuff to you, he will make up for it by giving you lots of good stuff when you die, and on and on.

As the story continues, Mark wholeheartedly pursues Anna with hopes of finally having a romantic relationship with her, if only she could overcome her superficial desire to marry a handsome man with a perfect genetic makeup – something Mark doesn’t have. Suffice it to say that by the end of the movie Mark gets what he wants without any earthly consequences for all of his lies.

The Invention of Lying, though containing some unique ideas, original humor, and some interesting insight into what constitutes truth and what constitutes a lie, is ultimately unconvincing and abhorrently irreverent. The acting is nothing remarkable as Ricky Gervais plays the same type of character as he does in every movie and Jennifer Garner completely overacts, making her role unbelievable and unlikable. For the most part, the movie relies on its sexual content as the source of humor and the line between truth and lies is left to be morally ambiguous, especially considering that there are no consequences shown for Mark’s lies and he continues to be rewarded for his behavior.

Also, although the movie is a satire, when it compares the effect of telling the truth on people to telling lies, it is greatly disproportionate, with the end result that lying can be a good thing because it makes people happy and peaceful. The movie seems to inaccurately portray what telling the truth looks like – the writers’ and directors’ idea of truth is more like people acting without inhibitions or wisdom by always saying the first thing that pops into their heads. The message seems to be that people who always tell the truth don’t have love and consideration for others.

The biggest concern is that, during Mark’s parody on Moses, his ultimate lie is about God (“the man in the sky”) and Heaven (the “good place”). The whole biblical concept of God is painted as one big, fat lie. Of course, this is all done for the purpose of humor, but the movie’s intent is clear: to make a blatant attack on Christianity, biblical truth, religion, and morality.

The Invention of Lying could have been very clever and even uplifting. Instead, it is an abhorrent humanist movie that mocks God, faith, Jesus Christ, Moses, and morality. It also contains crude sexual content and a message that lying can be a good thing.

NOTE from Dr. Ted Baehr, publisher of Movieguide Magazine. For more information from a Christian perspective, order the latest Movieguide Magazine by calling 1-800-899-6684(MOVI) or visit our website at Movieguide is dedicated to redeeming the values of Hollywood by informing parents about today's movies and entertainment and by showing media executives and artists that family-friendly and even Christian-friendly movies do best at the box office year in and year out. Movieguide now offers an online subscription to its magazine version, at The magazine, which comes out 25 times a year, contains many informative articles and reviews that help parents train their children to be media-wise consumers.

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About The Author

MOVIEGUIDE® was founded in 1985 by Dr. Ted Baehr, past president of the Episcopal Radio & Television Foundation and former director of the Television Center at the City University of New York. MOVIEGUIDE® is affiliated with the Christian Film & Television Commission® ministry (CFTVC). Both MOVIEGUIDE® and CFTVC are dedicated to redeeming the values of the entertainment industry, according to biblical principles, by influencing industry executives and artists and by informing and educating the public about the influence of the entertainment media and about how to train their families to become