This would be an easy film to underestimate. From the trailers and the postering, The Invention of Lying looks like nothing much more or less than Ricky Gervais (The Office) moving in on Jim Carrey's territory with a Liar Liar or Yes Man slice of pseudo metaphysical fluff.
And that's no doubt just the way the producers and distributors wanted it, because Carrey's comedies make like bandits at the box office, and the audience for a bit of paradoxical feel-good has been a reliable cash cow since 1946's It's a Wonderful Life, at least.
But, Gervais is not Carrey. And his film - he co-wrote and directed, so he gets to take all the responsibility - goes a lot further than Carrey has in years.
In The Invention of Lying, Gervais imagines a world in which untruths are completely unknown. No-one has a need of the concept of "honesty", any more than fish need a word for water. It just is the way things are.
And then, one fine morning, one fat bloke discovers that if he tells his bank teller a porky, she will give him money that he doesn't actually own.
Before you know it, Mark Bellison (Gervais) is using his new-found gift to better himself in all sorts of interesting ways. Money, career, Jennifer Garner - all of these are his for the taking as he realises that everyone will believe everything he says, and that he alone has the power of invention at his disposal.
In the film's most interesting twist, in order to comfort his dying mother, Mark invents a story about a "big man in the sky" and a "nice place" you might go to after your death. Suddenly, The Invention of Lying is taking aim at some very big targets indeed.
Whether you enjoy the movie on its most basic level - just a romcom with that bloke from the telly - or whether you go along for its surprisingly controversial philosophising, there is plenty to enjoy here.
Gervais the director has got a good handle on his cast and pacing, while Gervais the leading man is as likeable and engaging as ever. It's no Groundhog Day, but The Invention of Lying has got more on its mind than just bums on seats.
The Invention Of Lying
Director: Ricky Gervais
Starring: Ricky Gervais, Jennifer Garner, Rob Lowe, Jonah Hill
Time: 99 minutes
* What did you think of The Invention of Lying? Post your comments below.
- The Dominion Post