If you saw Ricky Gervais’s delightful romantic comedy “Ghost Town” last year and were looking forward to his new comedy, “The Invention of Lying,” be warned. The movie is a full-on attack on religion in general and Christianity in particular. It might be the most blatantly, one-sidedly atheist movie ever released by a major studio, in this case Warner Bros.
Gervais delights in what a faith-based society would call blasphemy, setting up an imaginary world in which no one ever lies. Except his character, who spreads what Gervais obviously sees as the biggest lie of all: Belief in God.
Gervais’s character is the first man ever to think of lying. In order to comfort the dying, he randomly hits on the idea of telling them that they will go to a better place and enjoy an afterlife. Citizens who automatically believe what they’re told (since no one, even advertisers, has ever told an untruth) start to spread the word, and soon Gervais is doing a gruesomely unfunny parody of Moses and the Ten Commandments. Except his rules are ten lies written on pizza boxes.
Gervais sighs and winces as he spins his absurd made-up stories to the ignorant peoples of the world: There is a “Man in the Sky,” he says, who is looking down at all of us and is responsible for everything that happens. Yes, he explains to one woman, he gave your mom cancer — but he’s also responsible for curing her. The people aren’t happy that “The Man in the Sky” is behind all human suffering. “F— The Man in the Sky!” cries one citizen, and the crowd begins to get angry. A magazine cover exclaims, “Man in the Sky Kills 40,000 in Tsunami!”
But Gervais’s character insists that whatever damage the Man in the Sky causes, he eventually makes up for it all in the end by providing a beautiful mansion for everyone after they die, at least for those who don’t commit three or more immoral acts, and by making it so that everyone can reunite with their loved ones in the next life. Later in the movie, Gervais will be outfitted like Jesus. The movie doesn’t have a joke to offer at this point; it just thinks it’s funny to show Gervais in long hair and a bedsheet. At the end, in a church, a minister is seen wearing a cross, so apparently somehow the Gervais character also came up with the Crucifixion story.
Gervais is an atheist, which is fine, but his mean-spiritedness (even before the atheism theme enters the movie, it’s sour and misanthropic) and the film’s reduction of all religion to an episode of crowd hysteria are not going to be warmly received. Except maybe by critics.