The Invention of Lying is a truly funny comedy

This winning comedy, directed, co-written by and starring Ricky Gervais (Ghost Town, Britain’s The Office), imagines a world in which everyone always tells the truth. In this alternate universe, lies, fiction, irony, imagination and social niceties are unknown. Daily life is a depressing minefield of rude insults and unfiltered admissions. The movie hilariously explores the pitfalls of truthfulness in the opening scenes, in which pudgy Mark Bellison (Gervais) calls on blind date Anna (Jennifer Garner), who bluntly admits her disappointment in his looks. When Mark, a screenwriter for a company that makes boring historical documentaries, is fired and evicted, he has a sudden impulse to lie to get extra money from his bank. As the world’s only man who can lie, Mark feels empowered to get rich and pursue Anna, who still finds him insufficiently handsome. Comforting his dying mother, Mark “invents” a hopeful story about the afterlife, and becomes an unintentional messiah. The movie is sprinkled with droll lines, smart visual gags and funny parts for Tina Fey, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jonah Hill. Although it doesn’t know quite what to do with its marvelous premise and sags a bit after its brilliant opening, it’s refreshingly thoughtful, original and very funny. *** 1/2