Imagine a marriage between Bruce/Evan Almighty and Funny People, and now remove lying from the world. OK, on the surface audiences could be forgiven for mistaking the premise for the Jim Carrey vehicle Liar, Liar, but remember I included Funny People in the mix, with its insular Judd Apatow vision of a world of bromantic comedians standing up for their rights to be more than guys standing on club stages because, dammit, all the world’s a stage (even though they’re infinitely safer in their hermetically sealed club bubbles).
In the alternative universe of The Invention of Lying, everyone tells the truth in bursts of un-self-consciousness that feels like they need thought filters to protect themselves and the things they should hold near and dear.
Ricky Gervais — the writer, director, star and overall master of his domain — accidentally provides the social sphincter, the lie, and the seismic change starts slowly but then builds to an epic godly crescendo before settling quite nicely back down to a very manageable human comedy.
On the acting scale, Gervais resides somewhere between Carrey and Adam Sandler, guys who have proven to have dramatic chops in the right situation. But we all know that comedy keeps their tickers ticking, and it would be a lie to say otherwise.
Gervais lords over the proceedings here, but he pulls the neat trick of making himself the butt of the jokes in his realm, which makes him humble and worthy of getting the girl in the end. No lie. Grade: B