For better or worse, David Brent, the ‘world’s best boss’ is back and making the jump from the telly to the silver screen.
15 years after The Office made Brent (Ricky Gervais) a household name, Life On The Road reintroduces the bumbling boss exactly where he was when we last saw him, repping for a cleaning company and selling sanitary products.
But Brent hasn’t forgotten his brush with fame and hits out on the road with long-suffering musical collaborator Dom Johnson (Doc Brown) to finally realise his dream of becoming a rock star – it goes as well as you’d expect.
Like the titular Brent, Life on the Road is an awkward film. It’s undeniably funny and Gervais manages to do more with his big-screen adaptation than most people do with sitcom-turned-films, but there’s something missing.
Part of the film’s problems is its central character. While there’s no denying that Brent is a work of genius he is, by design, a very grating character who’s supposed to annoy.
The issue is that in The Office he was surrounded by lovable characters who ‘sanded down’ his rough edges and made him more bearable. In contrast, the supporting characters in the film are, for lack of a better word, dicks.
In The Office, we had the prism of Tim and Dawn to filter Brent’s eccentricities, but here we see everything through Brent’s eyes, leading us to sympathise with the character more than laugh at him.
But Brent’s not a proper three dimensional character, he’s a caricature of all the bad bosses in the world who doesn’t stand up to proper scrutiny, especially over the course of a 90 minute film.
Another issue is how sentimental the film is. Now, of course, Gervais’ previous work has never shied away from tugging on the heartstrings, especially in The Office and Extras finales, but in the shows those endings felt earned.
Here Brent’s ‘win’ in the third act feels forced, coming completely out of nowhere.
The central premise of the film, that Brent goes on a tour, while different from the usual sitcom big-screen adaptation of sending its cast on holiday (Inbetweeners, Ab Fab), it does have a big problem. The songs are dreadful.
I know that’s the point of the film, that Brent is a terrible musician, but there’s stylistic suck and then there’s just sucking, and these songs suck so hard they mustn’t have had a drink in weeks – and there’s a lot of them to endure.
Thankfully, the film does have its good points.
There are more than a few laugh out loud moments and Gervais is the master of cringe comedy – honestly, there was one scene which takes place at a university disco that honestly made me wish the ground would open up and swallow me whole.
The film’s central message is also an uplifting one, championing both those who dream big but fall short of the mark, and those who try and make people laugh, because ultimately what’s wrong with that?
There’s also a wonderful echo of the famous ‘Chris, why don’t you fuck off’ moment from The Office Christmas Special when a bully gets what’s coming to him that led to a small cheer in the screening I was in.
David Brent: Life On The Road is an entertaining watch that fails to reach the heady heights of its small screen predecessor.
But it tries, and as the movie proves, everyone loves a trier.
More of a concept than a journalist, Tom Percival was forged in the bowels of Salford University from which he emerged grasping a Masters in journalism.
Since then his rise has been described by himself as ‘meteoric’ rising to the esteemed rank of Social Editor at UNILAD as well as working at the BBC, Manchester Evening News, and ITV.
He credits his success to three core techniques, name repetition, personality mirroring, and never breaking off a handshake.