Ricky Gervais’s brand of humor is not for everyone, but I’ve loved him since I watched the original, British version of The Office, which was vastly superior to the American copy. The Invention of Lying is one of my all-time favorite comedies. This one is not quite on that level, but it’s pretty funny.
He and Eric Bana work at a radio station in NYC. Bana is the glamorous one, though prone to totally embellishing his stories. Ricky is the sound man. They are assigned to cover a war in Ecuador, but on the way to the airport Ricky accidentally throws away their tickets, their passports, and all their money. They will be fired if this gets out, so they go to an apartment across the street from the station and begin filing bogus reports as if they were actually at the scene of the fighting. They invent a rebel leader, and soon all the other reporters on the scene claim to have information on the man. Soon they are heroes.
But you know how it goes when you start out with a big lie. Their station manager decides to get them out for their own safety, tells them to go to the embassy in Quito. Obviously they can’t, so they fake their own kidnappings and ransom demands, and put it all on the Internet.
It turns out to be the opportunity Ricky’s unfaithful wife, nicely played by Vera Farmiga, has been looking for all her life. She gets to play the tragic victim, and she milks it for all it’s worth. She composes and sings a song on a talk show, titled “A Dollar For a Hero,” to raise money. Soon the dough is rolling in, hundreds of thousands of dollars. She records an album of her songs. Seeing them “rescued” is the last thing she wants …
This is very good satire. This is how the news business works. Gervais plays his usual part, the short, chubby loser who knows he is a short, chubby loser and is resigned to it. He’s very good at that. Bana is good, and there is nice supporting work from America Ferrera as a none-too-bright friend of Ricky’s, and Kelly Macdonald as the girl who loves him, though he is too dumb to see it.