A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Invention of Lying is, like most of star Ricky Gervais' humor, irreverent and edgy (though also thought provoking). Nothing is sacred -- including religion (in the movie, the concept of God, aka "The Man in the Sky," is one of the lies that the main character invents). There's no sex on screen, but there's lots of talk about it -- including masturbation references, propositions, use of words like "boobies," etc. Expect a fair bit of salty language, from name-calling ("prick," "bastard," "faggot," "manbitch") to infrequent use of "f--k" and "s--t." Characters drink beer, wine, champagne, and whiskey; there's some drunkenness, and a man is shown driving while intoxicated. Lots of commercial products are shown on screen, with some showing up in scene after scene.
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What's the story?
There's no such thing as a lie or untruth in the society that writers/directors Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson have created in THE INVENTION OF LYING. There's not even a word for the concepts of truth or falsehood (which can only be described with difficulty as "things that aren't"). After a down-on-his-luck, lovesick, and decidedly common Mark Bellison (Gervais) accidentally tells the first lie ever, nothing is the same. It's a small lie, but it gets Mark out of a bind. The implication isn't lost on him: Truth definitely has its limitations. Bigger lies (mostly to help friends and loved ones cope with life's fears, indignities, and pain) lead Mark to fame, fortune, and a budding but ambivalent relationship with the woman of his dreams (Jennifer Garner). But to his dismay, things eventually spiral out of control as his escalating fabrications turn him into a prophet for a changed world.
Is it any good?
This is a movie that may turn out to be richer and more fun with each viewing. Amid the clever, witty dialogue, funny situations, and sneakily amusing riffs on some of our most treasured icons (moviemaking, advertising, the good-looking guy), it's surprising to realize that The Invention of Lying isn't just another "one joke" comedy. Gervais and Robinson had more in mind: They tackled some pretty heady concepts (death, faith, religion, and more) while using a very gentle hand -- along with the humor -- to make their points ... or at least to get the audience to think about what they've seen.
The movie includes many delightful, unexpected cameo appearances (watch for Ed Norton behind aviator sunglasses), and the supporting actors (including Jonah Hill, Jeffrey Tambor, Tina Fey, and Rob Lowe) are all very funny, though not much is demanded of them beyond playing one-dimensional caricatures that serve the leads. Gervais, as expected, is terrific as the Everyman, and Garner is very impressive as a comedienne. Their scenes together are wonderful examples of good timing, good chemistry, and two people having great fun.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the movie uses laughter to address some important ideas. Did it make you think in new ways about concepts like honesty, lying, and faith?
There are "bad" and "good" lies (fibs or white lies) in this film. Arethere times when you've not told the truth to avoid hurting someone? Are there times when a fib is better than the facts?
In the movie, much importance is placed on how people look -- and the necessity of having "beautiful children." What is the movie is saying about body image and our obsession with attractiveness?
How did the filmmakers convey that the story took place in a fantasy world? Did the settings, characters, and dialogue help you accept that world?
- In theaters: October 2, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: January 19, 2010
- Cast: Jennifer Garner, Ricky Gervais, Rob Lowe
- Directors: Matthew Robinson, Ricky Gervais
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: language including some sexual material and a drug reference
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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