|Review by Dean Galanis|
Making a good romantic comedy takes work.
As with horror films, it’s a genre that many filmmakers seem to think they can do. But they’re either coasting or simply unable to deliver, because the vast majority of both rom-coms and horror films alike suck.
The Truth About Lies, unfortunately, doesn’t stand out from the pack.
It’s got a strong cast with some good chemistry, but the writing and direction let them down, not to mention a wretched score (an all-too-common issue with rom-coms) that telegraphs and hammers home every joke.
There’s even a “funny” tuba accentuation, which never works.
Okay, it worked in Superman: The Movie with Otis’ Theme, but that was John Williams.
Lies’ major problem begins with the premise.
Kranz plays a schlubby slacker with zero ambition who loses his job, apartment and girlfriend in the same day (SOMEONE has seen Stripes).
Instead of joining the army with best pal Harold Ramis (if only!), Kranz agrees to go to a party with best pal Miles Fisher (one of the few pluses of the film is the chemistry between Fisher and Kranz) in the hopes of meeting a girl. Kranz also takes Fisher’s advice to “fake it til you make it”; in other words, lie about his life to impress the ladies.
Kranz also uses this advice during job interviews, and absolutely no hilarity ensues.
Kranz’s talent and charm are outdone during these scenes, and it’s entirely unfunny – and actually downright painful – to watch him squirm and tell lie upon lie to uphold his original fib. These scenes seem to go on forever, and you just want someone to punch him to put him, and us, out of our misery. Moments like these can be funny, even uproarious in the right hands, but here they land with a thud.
In fact, most of the comedic material lands with a loud thud.
The film is very sitcomy in the worst sense, the situations aren’t amusing, let alone funny, the film is badly lit and poorly staged, most of the comedic fodder is tired (there are a lot of food jokes. How fresh!), and it’s sad to see talented people like Kranz and the ever-adorable Odette Annable (née Yustman of Cloverfield) flail on screen. Even veteran stalwarts like Colleen Camp seem ill-at-ease with the material (which is odd, since she’s one of the producers).
The best scenes (the only good ones, really) are the ones where Kranz and Annable just hang out or get drunk together. They have some real chemistry, and seem most at ease during these scenes. There’s also a brief but welcome subplot involving Kranz’s quest to find the father he never knew, but its payoff is nearly nonexistent.
In fact, the main storyline’s payoff is nonexistent.
Or, at the very least, extremely unsatisfying. To the film’s minor credit, at least Lies doesn’t end as predictably as 99% of rom-coms do. But just because it’s slightly different doesn’t mean it’s good. It feels rushed and underwritten and, frankly, is rather unromantic.
There was a movie released in 1980 called Why Would I Lie? with Treat Williams that is (justifiably) long-forgotten. Williams played a really annoying compulsive liar we are meant to find charming and funny.
It didn’t work there, and it doesn’t work here.