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David Brent: Life on the Road


Stars: Ricky Gervais, Ben Bailey Smith, Jo Hartley, Tom Basden, Andrew Brooke, Tom Bennett, Mandeep Dhillon

Director: Ricky Gervais

I tried several times but failed to endure an entire episode of Ricky Gervais' television series The Office; when watching the show during a transatlantic flight, I was tempted to quit and have a stroll on the wing instead.

Extras, too, was a disappointment, not only because of Gervais but also because, having once been an extra myself, the show was even less convincing than most movie trailers.

Of course that doesn’t mean that my fundamentally negative reactions to his comic talents are anything other than simply personal. Gervais is an international comic star with Golden Globes, Emmys and BAFTAS to his credit along with added fame for his acid introductions as host of awards ceremonies, along with The Office having been successfully translated into an American television series.

Modesty, however, doesn’t seem to be one of his major traits. David Brent: Life On the Road is announced on screen as “A RICKY GERVAIS FILM” and in the press notes/critic crib sheet as “Directed, Written By and Starring Ricky Gervais”.

That said, I was surprised to find David Brent: Life on the Road, which comes to the screen 13 years after the BBC series, quite amusing although Brent, played to skin-crawling perfection by Gervais, is hardly likeable or endearing.

Here, after enduring a breakdown, therapy and addiction to Prozac, Brent is no longer with his previous employers Wernham Hogg. Instead he is irritating one and all in his new office while working as a travelling salesman for Lavichem, selling cleaning products and personal hygiene products for women – “One size fits all” – a line that establishes a benchmark for the frequently lewd comedy that follows when he quits and embarks on a self-financed tour with his band “Foregone Conclusion” to try and achieve his long-time ambition to be a pop star.

I laughed quite a few times (certainly far more than I had expected to) at Gervais’ camera-hogging comedy. The session musicians he hires for his band ‘Foregone Conclusion’ work valiantly and succeed but in effect they are basically there to showcase Gervais’ cringe-making – and surprisingly amusing – singing of Equality Street, Lady Gypsy and Native American.

He scores, too, talking to camera in a mock documentary whose crude but funny one-liners and the sheer arrogance of its leading character surprisingly kept me entertained for much of the running time.

Which is a good thing since it’s a BBC Films production - and that means people have already paid for it with their TV licences.

Alan Frank

UK 2016. UK Distributor: EntertainmentOne. Colour.
95 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 2, Swearing 3.

Review date: 23 Aug 2016