Homer Numan

Homer Numan

Monday, October 05, 2009

The Invention of Lying

The somewhat unlikely transition of Ricky Gervais from 'Office' cultdom to Hollywood stalwart appeared to be vindicated by his recent 'Ghost Town' foray, perhaps best described as a gentle triumph.

So how would he deal with the really big concept? The notion of a world where no-one was able to tell a lie, or indeed even thought of doing so, is a potentially fascinating one, ripe with possibility for both mirth and wisdom.

Things begin promisingly enough with tubby Gervais arriving for a first date with the attractive Jennifer Garner, who almost immediately informs him that sex is off the menu as she doesn't find him attractive. Refreshing if just a tad galling.
Their restaurant date proves richly entertaining thanks to a brutally honest waiter and a hilarious inter-meal phone call from Garner's mother.

But it quickly becomes apparent that a world where no-one tells lies is both a cruel and depressing place. On being fired from his job, Gervais' secretary informs him that she loathed almost every moment she worked for him. Another colleague informs Gervais that he has always hated him.

And in a twist which few outside Hollywood would have thought of, all 'movies' consist of someone reading historical facts from a given century, logical when you consider that nothing can be 'made up.'

There are a few rich 'commercial' asides, particularly 'Pepsi -- for when they don't have Coke' and the guy in the Coke commercial opining that 'it's a bit too sweet'.

But things come unstuck almost as soon as Gervais thinks up the idea of lying -- in this case by telling the bank cashier that he has more money in his account than he actually has.

His exploitation of this incredible discovery is muted at best, pathetic at worst. 'Winning' some money at a casino and getting his job back with a made-up script about the 13th century might not be everyone's first priorities.

And things really go pear-shaped when Gervais (a committed atheist in real life) 'makes up' a notion of heaven to comfort his dying mother in hospital. Overheard by several nurses, he is besieged at home by huge crowds demanding to know about this supposed afterlife.

It goes without saying that attacking the 'man in the sky' idea is akin to shooting fish in a barrel. To achieve any thought-provoking or comic effect, it needs to be done subtlely, a la 'Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy' for instance. Instead, Gervais goes for the bull at a gate approach, coming across as infantile. Though the 'sermon on the mount' using two pizza boxes as stone tablets is a nice little touch it has to be said.

The highly unsatisfactory rom-com denouement is both disappointing and pathetic and we're left with a high concept ruined by a complete cop-out plot-wise and a screenplay that simply doesn't flow.

And WTAF with the bottles of Budweiser everywhere? Product placement fair enough but this is just ridiculous. Even when Gervais becomes a recluse with a drink problem, he's still surrounded by bottles of Bud. As the guy in the advert might say 'it's too sweet.'

(3 out of 10)

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