Characters don’t have to be likable to make great comedy. some of the finest comic creations are bastards (Malcolm tucker), weirdos (Pee-wee herman) or nincompoops (Inspector clouseau). But even the worst have to have some redeeming feature, and it’s that spark of grace that’s missing from ricky Gervais’ latest movie as writer, director and star. a remake of 2009 French film
Envoyés Très Spéciaux, it sees two radio journalists convincing the world that they are reporting from a war zone, when in fact they have lost their tickets and are stuck at home, faking the broadcasts and, when that gets too tiring, their own kidnapping. Gervais is Ian, the hapless tech responsible for their predicament. eric Bana is Frank, the too-cool anchorman forced into a shaky alliance with him — made particularly fragile because he slept with his comrade’s wife shortly before.
But it’s hard to care. Gervais may look hangdog, but here he’s hopeless as the underdog. Instead he gives us a caricature, a mass of geeky, half-hearted tropes about video games and comics, things that Gervais himself appears to despise. Bana’s character never seems either appalling enough to be shocking or nice enough to be worth rooting for. Worst, however, is Vera Farmiga as Ian’s faithless wife, a one-dimensional harpy without a redeeming feature.
trying desperately to balance things out is Kelly Macdonald’s saintly claire, who has a rather unlikely crush on Ian and no other character traits at all, and america Ferrera and raúl castillo as the impossibly nice-but-dim couple who offer the two fugitives shelter. none of them feel like human beings, which is a problem when the film strives — as it sporadically does — to make a serious point about media manipulation. But it doesn’t seem to know what point that is, ending up with Gervais running about with a gun.
subplots and character motivations are raised and dropped apparently at random, and in the modern internet age the premise rings even less credible than the similarly themed Wag The Dog. It should be funnier, and more thoughtful — but instead it feels like Gervais phoned it in from across the road.
Ricky Gervais and Eric Bana wage war on their livers.