David Brent fails the screen test

There are some good jokes en route in Ricky Ger­vais’s spoof ‘road movie’, but over­all it is still a van­ity project, writes

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - Tara Brady

DAVID BRENT: LIFE ON THE ROAD Di­rected by Ricky Ger­vais. Star­ring Ricky Ger­vais, Doc Brown, Andy Bur­rows, Tom Bas­den, Re­becca Gethings, Nona Sosanya, An­drew Brooke. Cert 16, gen re­lease, 96mins

Who let this Xmas spe­cial into a cinema? And in the mid­dle of block­buster sea­son? Ricky Ger­vais has been care­ful to let us know that this fea­ture film fol­low­ing David Brent (Ger­vais), erst­while mor­ti­fy­ing boss from BBC’s The Of­fice, is not The Of­fice: The Movie.

That’s a pity. As any am­a­teur tel­ly­ol­o­gist might tell you, the Bri­tish sit­com re­quires the mis­er­able con­fine­ments of

Step­toe and Son’s junk­yard, Por­ridge’s cell or Basil’s Fawlty Tow­ers in or­der to func­tion.

Life on the Road hopes to trash this no­tion by tak­ing David Brent . . . well, you’ve read the ti­tle, right? As the new film – writ­ten, di­rected and star­ring Ger­vais – opens, Brent is work­ing as a sales rep at a firm that spe­cialises in lava­tory vend­ing ma­chines. Cue clas­sic Bren­tism: “One size fits all!” he de­clares hold­ing a tam­pon aloft: “No, it doesn’t.”

Our ex­cru­ci­at­ing hero, we learn, has de­cided to cash in his pen­sion and go on tour with a group of ses­sion mu­si­cians un­der the ban­ner Fore­gone Con­clu­sion. Hand­fuls of pun­ters across a se­ries of

unglam­orous venues are soon ig­nor­ing his songs about the dis­abled (sam­ple lyric: “Whether men­tal in the head/Or men­tal in the legs”) or the plight of the Na­tive Amer­i­cans.

His mu­si­cal col­leagues, in­clud­ing his sym­pa­thetic rap­per chum (Doc Brown), plainly de­spise him and, in keep­ing with the mock­u­men­tary style of The Of­fice, don’t mind air­ing their griev­ances to cam­era. And then, with­out warn­ing, they de­cide “he’s al­right re­ally”. Huh? Su­per­fans of Ger­vais may be con­tent to hear Brent’s un-PC howlers once again, but the half-ar­sed struc­ture does not a movie make. (Tellingly, the project will pre­miere on Net­flix out­side of the UK and Ire­land.) As with the re­cent Alan Par­tridge trans­fer, Brent has been tricked with just enough to fill the big screen, and just enough to not quite con­vince us that he’s still Brent from The Of­fice.

He ought to be obliv­i­ous – or at least ap­pear obliv­i­ous. In­stead he’s obliv­i­ous, then not, then obliv­i­ous again.

There are some good jokes here – even, per­haps, for non- Of­fice lovers – but the shoddy scaf­fold­ing ren­ders every­thing re­dun­dant.

A dou­ble vinyl al­bum and The David Brent Song­book is on the way. A fic­tional char­ac­ter’s van­ity project is still a van­ity project.

Ger­vais and back­ing band Fore­gone Con­clu­sion in David Brent: Life on the Road

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