It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
In its amiable, quiet, PG-13 way, "The Invention of Lying" is a remarkably radical comedy. It opens with a series of funny, relentlessly logical episodes in a world where everyone always tells the truth, and then slips in the implication that religion is possible only in a world that has the ability to lie. Then it wraps all of this into a sweet love story.
Ricky Gervais plays a pudgy everyman named Mark, who's a writer for a company that produces movies of stunning tedium. There's no comedy or drama in its productions, because of course fiction requires lies. Mark fails to turn the Black Plague into box office, and is fired, but not before his secretary (Tina Fey) tells him she has loathed every day she worked for him. Mark takes this agreeably enough; one is not easily insulted when everyone tells the truth all the time.
What would such a world be like? In "The Invention of Lying," a retirement home is called "A Sad Place Where Homeless Old People Come to Die." Pepsi ads say: "For when they don't have Coke." When Mark goes on a blind date with Anna (Jennifer Garner), she opens the door and starts right off with a hilarious line that Garner reportedly improvised on the spot. Then she says she finds him unattractive, there will never be any possibility of sex, and he is too short and fat to make a good genetic sperm source. At a restaurant, the waiter tells them he hates working there, and that Anna is out of Mark's league. Mark and Anna agree.
You see how it goes. Mark lives in a typical little city with bland people and no anger. Everyone always believes everyone else. I wonder if politics are even possible. We see this isn't an ideal situation. There are no consolations. Nothing eases the way.