Warm, witty, and wise are all words I would happily use to described The Invention of Lying. Ricky Gervais, who co-wrote and co-directed with Matthew Robinson, stars as a screenwriter in an alternate universe. (Jennifer Garner, Jonah Hill, Rob Lowe, and Louis C.K. also star.) It's a world that resembles our world, except that everyone is compelled to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, at all times -- not simply be honest when asked, but volunteer all manner of unflattering information. It's a cute premise that allows the dark, droll humor of Gervais to prevail, resulting in a very funny movie that eventually morphs into a treatise -- some would say a broadside, but I think it's far too kind and empathetic -- on religion, spirituality, and the importance of leading a "good" life.
Here's the rub: Gervais' character is also a wee bit hypocritical. (OK, a whole lot.) As he admits in the film, he's a middle-aged, overweight, snub-nosed little man, not much in the physical looks department. His charming personality, keen intelligence, and acerbic humor all serve to balance the books nicely as an overall package, but not in the eyes of Jennifer Garner, who plays a shallow-minded woman. All she wants is a good match in the gene pool, and Gervais doesn't measure up. So why does he pursue her?