David Brent: Life on the Road

TV fans have great water cooler conversations, whether it’s about new series’ like Westworld or Game of Thrones, or what season was the last great one with The Simpsons. One argument I have been privy to is what is better between the UK Office or the US one. I have entire arguments planned out about the differences between the two, however if there’s one thing that the new spin off film David Brent: Life on the Road shows, it’s that The Office worked due to its ensemble. Something is immediately missing in the opening minutes of this film and never seems to appear.

David Brent: Life on the Road sees the titular character, Brent, Ricky Gervais’ harsh but lovable joker from his series ‘The Office’, being off TV for quite some time. So when a TV crew comes to see him, he spends all of his earnings to give being a rockstar one last crack. Paying for the band, the accommodation and everything in between he stages a tour to show off how big of a musical icon he can be. However, when his bandmates and audiences fail to see the genius that he thinks he is, he questions not only his reasons for the tour but himself and who he really is.

The most immediate feeling of this movie is bitterness, the comedy here is bleak. The Extras Christmas special showed that Gervais can really nail dark comedy with a lot to say, but with this film the comedy doesn’t service anyone but deliver cringe filled moans. David is placed as the annoying outsider and what the TV show did so well was place a lovable band of misfits around him to make him look better (or worse), but there was a general love in the office. They could get on. This band never has reasons to hate, and yet the film keeps painting them in crueller ways, hoping this will allow Brent’s cruel diatribes some perspective, but it all feels horribly forced.

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The film’s major saving grace is from actor Tom Bennett’s Nigel Martin, who in bookending scenes plays one of David’s co-workers. These scenes seem to resemble, or at least make up for, the lack of Office for this character, and while none of the other co-workers ever get a chance to be more than a stereotype, the performance by Tom is sincere and friendly. A lovable dork who just as excited as David, which the film sorely lacks for a long part of its running time. Had Gervais written this character to come with him there would be someone there to help take a bit of the bitter edge off.

SUMMARY: David Brent: Life on the Road fails not because it isn’t funny enough, in fact many of Gervais original songs actually have a bit of comedic gold in it, but because it is just so hard to stomach such sadness. This is a man taking his last big shot, and the film doesn’t give him a fair one. When we reach the film’s conclusion and some clunky exposition to show support for him, it’s a little too late. We know how he has been treated, and how he has treated others, and so it all just feels a little too sad for a comedy. Gervais is usually great at walking this tightrope, but this movie he falters

SCORE: 25%

David Brent: Life on the Road releases December 14th on DVD, Blu-Ray an Digital formats.  Check the Entertainment One website for more details.

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