Ricky Gervais makes Pinocchio proud. No lie.
He doesn’t tell an original lie, but it isn’t the original original lie. I’m a little ahead of myself.
Before the lies, a little truth. Not much in movies is original these days. With hundreds of theater movies, straight to DVD movies, TV movies and TV shows produced every year, they all kind of blend together. Depending on who you talk to there are six to 10 original plot ideas and all stories are worked into and around them. Some you enjoy. Some you don’t.
Enter Gervais — genius. And it’s not because of his award-winning TV show The Office. Gervais has found an original idea — a concept we’ve never seen before. The execution requires a visit to those six to 10 been-done-to-death plots, but his creativity makes it forgivable.
Gervais has invented a land where no one lies. Ever. Thoughts automatically turn to words. Ask someone how they are, and they’ll really tell you. Too much information is the rule. These are statements we all wish we could say but can’t because our “civilized” society frowns on such honesty. If it’s not politically correct, if it’s slightly offensive or might hurt someone’s feelings — don’t say it.
This is where telling a whopper may be a good thing and the reason lying works so well on this planet. The truth is boring. That’s one of Gervais’ and co-writer and co-director Matthew Robinson’s points. By itself, truth has no flavor. Then Gervias’ character, Mark Bellison, learns to lie. He is the only person on the planet capable of doing so. Mark tells one fib after another, each building on the last until he explains to his dying mom that there is a man in the sky. He runs the world and when you die everyone gets their own mansion.
Everyone believes everything he says. Instantly, Mark is a guru and very rich. That doesn’t make Mark happy. The woman he loves won’t marry him because they’re not a good genetic mix. She’s a babe, he’s fat and has a snub nose. It’s a funny but overworked bit in a film full of them. However, the satire is superb and the point nearly perfect.
Gervais and Robinson skew the artificial thought barriers put up by society, our shallow emphasis on outer beauty over inner, organized religion, the naivete of followers and following and take pot shots at those six to 10 plots and the movies made from them. The questions Mark fields when he delivers his version of the 10 Commandments are not only profound but also are laugh-out-loud funny.
So are the situations that set up cameos from Tina Fey, Jason Bateman, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Guest, Edward Norton, Jonah Hill and Rob Lowe in kind of a cameo.
The original lie has never been so original and has never been this much fun. No exaggeration. No half truths. You’ll love it — I swear.
Mr. Movie rating: 4 1/2 stars
Rated PG-13 for mature themes. It opens Friday, Oct. 2 at the Carmike 12 and at Fairchild Cinemas 12.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.