Film Review: David Brent – Life on the Road

davidbrent1Frances Winston found this film to be funny, cringeworthy and sweet!

Directed by: Ricky Gervais – Starring: Ricky Gervais, Doc Brown, Andy Burrows, Tom Basden, Tom Bennett, Steve Clarke, Michael Clarke, Stuart Wilkinson

The character of Dennis Waterman in Little Britain famously wanted to “write the theme toon and sing the theme toon” for every show he appeared in, and here Gervais is channelling that.

He has written, directed, and stars in this offering, and wrote or co-wrote the songs, and sings the songs. Basically it is almost a one-man show. There are other cast members of course, but this is very much about Gervais and his alter ego, David Brent.

This is set 15 years after the events of The Office. Of course we have seen David Brent in the interim – Gervais has revisited the character on numerous occasions for one-off appearances, charity events, and even a YouTube guitar-tuition series. However, none of this is referenced here, and it is set firmly in the world of the TV show aka Slough.

Brent is now working as a sales rep for a company called Lavichem (cue smutty toilet product jokes) and still believes that he is only a hair’s-breadth away from achieving fame and fortune. He hasn’t changed, and is as un-PC and inappropriate as ever. Even the Lavichem offices have characters echoing those of Wernham Hogg Paper Company, giving this a sense of déjà vu.

Much to his delight, a film crew are following them again, as he prepares to take to the road with his band. He’s envisaging a huge-scale rockumentary, but his tour is more ‘who you’ than U2. Cashing in all his pensions to pay for it, he finds himself playing to under-whelmed crowds, and ostracised by his band, as his brand of unwittingly insulting song-writing fails to hit the mark.

It really is as if David Brent has never been away. He hasn’t changed, evolved, or moved on, emotionally or mentally, since The Office. In fact, you could have slotted this in as an Office Special and it would have worked. However, giving Brent a new supporting cast in the form of the band does freshen it up somewhat, and they are suitably scathing about him and his talents (or lack of them) when interviewed on camera.

Many of the jokes are cringeworthy, which is what Gervais does well. No subject is off-limits, and the lyrics of some of the songs are truly shocking, and only work because Brent is so unaware of how insulting they are.

There is also a shameless Christmas track performed near the end of the movie, that you just know we will be bombarded with come December, which I already hate Gervais for! (Christmas earworms have no place in August – just saying!) That aside, despite the fact that Brent should be so deeply unlikeable, you do find yourself rooting for him – again mainly because he doesn’t act out of malice – just unwittingness.

It’s always tricky for small screen shows to make a transition to the big screen without feeling like an extended episode of the show, but this manages it – just. Although Gervais has said that this isn’t an Office movie, it does feel like one, and fans of the show won’t be disappointed. If this is your first introduction to Brent, then you’ll have the same marmite feeling that viewers did when he first appeared on television. You’ll ether love him or hate him.

At just over 90 minutes, it didn’t outstay its welcome, and it did entertain. It’s not Gervais finest work by a long shot, and at times it feels a bit jaded, but overall, it was good fun. I cringed (a lot) and I laughed, but I did find this strangely sweet and enjoyable.

In Cinemas Now!

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