In The Invention of Lying, the concept of a lie does not even exist, and nothing but the truth has its candor for a while in Ricky Gervais's latest capriciousness on-screen after Ghost Town.
Gervais actually is behind the camera with newbie Matthew Robinson (both are its scribes) and does better than one might expect as the star of Britain's version of "The Office" does well not as a dentist, but this time as a crestfallen screenwriter, Mark Bellison, for a division which specializes in history films.
The first reel or so of what was formerly entitled "This Side of Truth" is simply a hoot before the overweight, sullen loser loses his job and inadvertently finds the upside of dishonesty. Jennifer Garner is fine as, it so happens, Jennifer, a first date for Mark who fits well in this parallel universe where not even little white lies seem to surface.
Mark observes so many who tell it like it is, from politicians to advertisers to the man and woman on the street, and has a combative secretary (Tina Fey) to bother him.
This often inspired parable, which could be a cross of films like Pleasantville and Liar Liar, unfolds from consequences of this new mendacity. Mark realizes that it's hard to keep a handle on things when some of your biggest fibs are treated as gospel. The Mark and Jennifer relationship doesn't gel nearly as one would hope from the handling of Gervais and Robinson of the cute take on the premise, though Garner is hardly in the same kind of comedy as the far less delightful Ghosts of Girlfriends Past.
Gervais uses his snubness and smugness to his advantage again and shines with decent backup like Jonah Hill, Rob Lowe, Jeffrey Tambor, Louis C.K., Christopher Guest, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and even Edward Norton, in addition to Fey. Though this Invention does lose its comic momentum, it still is often more amusing and original than what often comes out of Hollywood as there's something catchy and fun when hanging on to the lying of someone like Mark.