The Feature: 2/5Mark Bellison (Ricky Gervais) can tell nothing but the truth. Well, actually, no one can. In a world without lies - where no one understands what a lie is - Mark knows he's going to be fired from his screenwriting job, that his co-workers think he's a loser, and Anna (Jennifer Garner), the beautiful woman he just went out with, doesn't ever want to see him again. All that changes, however, when Mark has a revelation - that he need not say what actually IS. Based purely on his word, he can now have as much wealth and success as he wants, though capturing Anna's heart proves more difficult. Mark refuses to lie to persuade her to be with him, even though it may take something rather simple to convince her she need not mate with someone of equivalent attractiveness and success. Even harder is what to tell the world when it thinks he has the answers to life's greatest questions. Lying may make them feel better about their lives, but doesn't everyone deserve the truth?
Ricky Gervais's directorial debut "The Invention of Lying" presents a rather interesting premise with profound social, moral and existential implications, but it ultimately doesn't work as a comedy. There are some laughs to be sure, mainly in Mark's reactions to others' pointed statements about his appearance and prospects, but the issues and questions raised by the film's central concept prove to be a distraction. For example, one of the consequences of a lie-free world is that people just say what's on their mind regardless of whether it's mean or rude. So that suggests manners and concern for someone else's feelings are predicated on untruths. Interesting...but as the viewer is turning that over in his head, shouldn't he instead be watching the movie? Maybe laughing at something funny? Unfortunately, that's just one of many, often half-baked ideas to give one pause. Some other results of everyone telling the truth include people believing anything you say, despite the presence of hard data showing otherwise, and, the most controversial - the absence of belief in God. The quantity and underdeveloped quality of such notions ultimately prove to be the film's undoing. Though the central premise holds promise, it's clear Gervais and co-writer Matthew Robinson didn't think it through far enough, making the film into more a series of interesting thought experiments than a piece of comedic entertainment.
Video Quality: 4/5The film is accurately framed at 1.78:1 and presented in 1080p with the VC-1 codec. Nothing is particularly remarkable about the film's cinematography, being largely functional in nature. Though a comedy doesn't demand much more, it is a workmanlike effort. Black levels are stable and deep, contrast consistently displays the full range of values, and colors exhibit good depth and fidelity. The picture does have a coarser grain pattern than what I'm used to seeing, which tends to affect the resolution of fine details and perceived overall sharpness. The transfer handles the heavier grain well, however, with only a few noticeable instances of compression artifacts. I also noticed no obvious signs of edge enhancement or noise reduction measures.
Audio Quality: 3/5The Dolby TrueHD audio track is front-stage dominant, the rear surrounds mostly providing balanced support for the score. Environmental and directional effects are few and far between, only showing up for Mark's great epiphany and a couple of crowd scenes. LFE is non-existent, but a few spots in the score exhibit good fullness in the lower frequencies. Dialogue is consistently clear and intelligible.
Special Features: 3/5Though noticeably light on actual information about the production, the special features package does have some humorous moments. Some might even say they are funnier than the film itself.
Prequel: The Dawn of Lying (6:30, SD): Intended as a prologue for the film, the piece depicts the first lie of the prehistoric era and includes Patrick Stewart as the narrator and most of the male cast members as cavemen. Given that the first lie is predicated by Gervais's character Mark, it makes sense that this sequence would be left on the cutting room floor.
Meet Karl Pilkington (17:48, SD): Sometimes painfully humorous documentary follows Karl Pilkington, the co-host of "The Ricky Gervais Show" radio show, as he travels to Boston to be an extra in the (ultimately excised) caveman prologue. Pilkington basically stays true to form as the chronic complainer and sad-sack, while Gervais continues to needle him about his round, bald head. For anyone still trying to figure out if Pilkington is playing a part or is this way in real life, the piece won't provide any insights as it's pretty much an extension of his persona on the radio show.
A Truly "Honest" Making-Of Featurette with Ricky Gervais (7:17, HD): Too-brief look behind-the-scenes includes interviews where the cast gives Gervais crap about his comedy and work habits.
Additional Footage (7:12, SD): Five scenes titled "On the Way to the Restaurant," "Mark and Greg at Bar," "Post Casino," "The Readers: The Invention of the Fork," and "The Readers: Mathematics." As usual, none cry out for inclusion in the feature.
Ricky and Matt's Video Podcasts (9:59, SD): Four podcasts titled "Ricky at Home in Boston," "Office Scouting," "What's In the Local News," and "Jake Attack." Most of the material is humorous, but of course requires you to be a fan of Gervais's antics.
More Laughs: Corpsing and Outtakes (5:33, SD): Given Gervais's tendency to bust up during a take (AKA corpse), I imagine there is much that was not included.
Digital Copy: Compatible with Mac and Windows. Offer expires January 12, 2011.
RecapThe Feature: 2/5
Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 3/5
Special Features: 3/5
Overall Score (not an average): 3/5
A comedy whose laughs get derailed by larger moral and existential questions gets a good technical presentation and a set of extras that at times is more humorous than the film it supports.