The Invention of Lying

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
The Invention of Lying Movie Poster Image
Gervais' irreverent fable isn't meant for kids.
  • PG-13
  • 2009
  • 100 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 21 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 20 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Although the movie is all about introducing the concept of lying to the world, the end take-away is that the world can be a bleak place if  you don't have faith in yourself and in the future. The movie also makes the point that it isn't necessary to say everything you think -- that there are times when telling the truth can be hurtful and unkind. A relationship based on outward appearances and superficial qualities ultimately proves to be unsatisfying and demeaning.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Even though he sometimes uses the concept of lying for personal/petty gain, ultimately the main character most often lies in order to help people who are hurt, afraid, or feel hopeless. At a crucial point in the story, he faces a dilemma and must choose between an easy lie or a difficult truth. The kind-hearted leading lady learns to value more than good looks and outward charm.


A law enforcement officer roughly pulls a driver out of a car. Some boys pick on an overweight child and push an ice cream cone in his face.


Other than a brief kiss, there's no visual sexual activity, but the characters talk about it often ("I'm not going to sleep with him," "touch boobies," "have sex with them," "it arouses me"), and there are a number of references to masturbation. A coupon is presented for "birthday sex," a sign advertising a motel reads: "A cheap hotel for intercourse with a stranger," the main character tests out the idea of lying by propositioning a beautiful woman, etc.


Occasional obscenities and use of derogatory terms, including: "f--k," "s--t," "manbitch," "crap," "prick," "boobies," "bastard," "faggot," "queer," and "douchebag."


Plenty of in-your-face product placement throughout: Characters drink Budweiser beer in many scenes; other brands/products include Moet Champagne, Craigslist, and Pizza Hut. Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola advertisements are parodied in several sequences.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Alcoholic beverages are consumed in many scenes: wine, champagne, whiskey. Beer drinking is particularly pervasive.  In some sequences, drinking is used to self-medicate for depression and hopelessness. Two characters are shown getting drunk in a bar; one then drives a car unsteadily, weaving across the road for comic effect.  One character declares that he's spent the night "throwing up pain killers," while another refers to his own "cocaine habit."

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byianthesoupdude June 11, 2011

An excellent movie, with a good message.

It is extremely unfortunate that this movie is slammed so much by conservative Christians. This movie, at its core, is about the silliness of the whole concept... Continue reading
Parent Written byPlague January 25, 2010
I really funny movie. I laughed so hard when he was announcing the ten commandments. I would recommend this movie for mature teens 13+, but not for anyone super... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byTheFMan September 21, 2014

I Enjoyed It.

Before I begin, yes, I know that it is a metaphor for Atheism, but I'm an Athiest, so I don't give a f*ck. It was funny, I enjoyed watching the guy (I... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byBishopberry August 15, 2010

One of the Worst Movies I've Ever Seen

This movie is in the top five worst movies I've ever seen. It has open sexual references and the acting is dry.

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?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love offbeat movies

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