Enjoying Ricky Gervais' offbeat sense of humor, I really wanted to proove all the critics wrong about this film, however, since I'm incapable of lying, I must say that in spite of some laugh out loud moments the film falls on the sword of its own premise.
Said premise is that there exists a fairy tale world wherein the populace are simply not wired to even consider telling a falsehood (in fact, they don't even have a word for it). However, this shouldn't mean that it is required that everyone needs to blurt out whatever they are feeling at the moment, as if there is no filter between brain and mouth. While this causes some humerous moments, it also brings forth a conumdrum that I found irritating (and helped box the script into a corner that it couldn't really fight its way out of). The film simply could not continue to balance the story thread without fudging on its own premise.
That being said, the story is simple enough - Ricky is a mediocre writer of historical screenplays (another assumption made here is that, since no-one lies, then there is no "creative" writing - all writing must be factual, not fiction). Ricky is set up on a date with Jennifer Garner, who, she and everyone else tells Ricky, is out of his league (casting note here - I don't find Garner at all attractive, and here found her vapid quest for a "genetic equal" not in the least funny or realistic). Anyway, Ricky then loses the girl, and then his job, gets evicted from his apartment - but then... while trying to withdraw his remaining meager funds from the bank, actually manages to lie about his bank balance (once again, the scene lacked contineity, for he first asked not only to withdraw funds but to close his account - after the bank's computers come back on line and Ricky is given more cash than he has in the account, the teller doesn't follow up on his prior request to close the account - I mean, why bother mentioning closing the account in the first place if you're not going to follow through on it scriptwise? This kind of laziness irritates the heck out of me... can't ya tell??).
Anyway, once Ricky realizes he is capable of lying he begins testing the boundaries of his craft, including telling a woman he meets on the street that the world will end if she doesn't have sex with him - her reply, "right here on the street, or do we have time to get a room". Good stuff!
He later writes an improbable screenplay about aliens and all kinds of what not in the 14th Century, which the studio believes as factual - but here is another misstep - The studio believes that the film will be a big hit - because Ricky says so and since no-one lies... but that confuses the line between lieing and your opinion. Just because one person believes something doesn't make it a lie simply because someone else believes differently.
Ricky becomes rich and famous, but doesn't get the girl... until the very end, as she still maintains that he is not proper genetic material for her.
Along the way there are many squandered opportunities and several instances of lazy and sloppy writing, to go along with the severly hampered love story Gervais is trying to tell. Yet there are still laugh out loud moments - mostly from the outrageous signs on buildings - little things just thrown in that have nothing to do with the plot, but remain humerous nonethless (like the name on the wall of the old folkes home - something like "the depressing home for dying old people".
There is also a rather humerous religious angle to the film, which pokes fun at "the guy in the sky" and has a version of the ten "rules" printed on two pizza box tops, which some might find offensive. The scene where Ricky delivers the rules I found reminiscent of Monty Python's Life of Brian where the masses fail to understand the meaning, yet want to believe in something (again, this could have been more weighty except that, once again the script was hemmed in by the premise that everyone automatically believes everything being said, since no-one lies).
I should also mention that for the most part the acting was pretty solid - even Garner, considering what bits of script she had to work with. Especially good in small roles: Rob Lowe as an arrogant prick, who is successful because of his good looks (another theme here - somehow not lying equals reading all books by their covers?????), and the small but funny role of Ricky's secretary, played by Tina Fey. Finally, in case you may have missed it - there's a cameo of a bartender slyly portrayed by Phillip Seymore Hoffman.
In the end I couldn't help feeling that this potentially very funny idea could have recieved a better treatment - a rewrite of the script for starters - I guess since Ricky appears so golden, no-one wants to tell him that the emperor is buck naked.