THE INVENTION OF LYING
In Mark’s (Ricky Gervais) world, people are genetically incapable of lying, and since no one lies, no one is suspicious or questions anything. If you told these people you were freezing when you just meant you were cold they would take you literally. Same thing goes for Santa and the Tooth Fairy. Basically everyone operates on the intellectual and emotional level of a five-year-old.
I’m not saying this is an uninteresting premise, or that it doesn’t have the potential to point out something about the quality of that which makes us human, but it’s handled in such a repetitive way that after about 30 minutes the schtick has worn itself thin. For some reason the inability to lie goes hand in hand with being materialistic, self-centered and devoid of complex emotion. Anna (played by a wooden Jennifer Garner) says over and over (literally) that she’s not interested in Mark because he’s clearly her genetic inferior and her main goal in life is to have beautiful children, not the fat, snub-nosed offspring he would certainly produce. His response is to invent the concept of lying so he can “get all the money” so he can buy a mansion to impress her.
Despite the premise being too small to fill a whole movie, there are some great moments, like the fact that fiction and acting do not exist. The films in Mark’s world consist of Masterpiece Theatre-style retellings of historical events (i.e. a man in a chair recounting the events of The Crimean War without theatrical interpretation). The movie is also chock-full of cameos from actors Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Martin Starr, Christopher Guest, Edward Norton, and Stephen Merchant which helps to keep things moving.