A Tale Of Two Comedies

It is a truth universally acknowledged that not all comedies are created equal.  Comedy is probably one of the hardest type of story to get right.

I watched two comedies; one that received little attention and one that everyone’s been talking about. The first was The Invention of Lying starring (and co-authored and directed by) Ricky Gervais. The premise: what would happen–in a society where not only can people not lie, they seem compelled to say whatever’s in their head–when one man ‘evolves’ the ability to lie? Ricky Gervais is Mark Bellison, the first liar. The interesting thing is that, while he does use his ability for his own gain, he seems to use it just as much to help others. The movie is strange, but I think there are two main things that make it work. One is the depiction of things that we take for granted; such as, what would advertisements and movies be like in a society where no one lies? The second is Gervais. There is something both charming and vulnerable about him that makes the character of Mark Bellison believable. In particular, there is a touching scene with Bellison and his mother, where Bellison invents an elaborate story to comfort his mother. The Invention of Lying contains some rather typical vulgar British humor, but it is still an interesting view of what people would be like if they had to tell the truth. Contrary to what some people think, it is not always a pretty picture.

The second comedy I watched was the surprise hit The Hangover. Although I did not seem to find this movie as funny as most people, I did see the charm and humor in it. What I didn’t like was the complete accepting (to the point of embracing) the whole "boys will be boys" idea, as if it is not only normal but right for men to go out and behave poorly the night before their wedding. There was also a lot of very crude humor, which it seems impossible to get away from any more.  However, the movie is still funny. What is nice is that the story is told in segments, as the friends figure out one more piece of the night at a time (since they wake up with absolutely no memory of what happened the night before). Zach Galifianakis deserved the acclaim he received for his role as the bride’s brother, Alan Garner. He is probably the best part of the movie (although there is something ridiculously funny about watching three grown men get tazed). The Hangover probably received all the attention it did because it is a level above many of the other comedies we see today (Will Ferrell and Adam Sandler movies). It is worth watching, but I still don’t think it’s an excellent movie.