We all know a David Brent. The original Brent (played toe-curlingly well by Ricky Gervais) was the major reason for The Office’s success, and though it’s been over 13 years since the program’s Christmas special aired and tied up all those loose ends, Brent the “entertainer” has resurfaced. The world might have changed, but Brent hasn’t.
Life On The Road takes the lead from the mockumentary style of the TV series, but it’s not The Office: The Movie. The film features none of the original cast of characters save for Brent, and Gervais’ fellow writer and The Office’s co-creator Stephen Merchant played no part in this project. However, despite the trouble that such a dearth suggests, thankfully the film is not the disaster it could have been.
Mr. Brent is now a sales rep at Lavichem, a company that sells cleaning and personal hygiene products, but he’s still an idiot clutching at dreams of rock stardom. Eventually, following his dreams, he cashes in his pension and assembles a group of hired guns to perform as his backing band for a tour of Slough. The only problem is his bandmates hate him (he even has to pay them to drink with him) and the tour is a shambles and whirlwind of humiliation for the former manager of Wernham-Hogg.
This film sees Gervais continuing to straddle the lines between cheeky jokes and gags that are plain spiteful and mean-spirited. If you weren’t a fan of the TV show then this is not a film for you. Brent has not grown as a character: in fact, he’s more of a caricature than ever, and his affected immaturity is still easily his defining character note.
Ultimately, the film has some strong gags, and is filled with songs that are enjoyably bad. Brent’s backing band, the Foregone Conclusion, are slapdash in all the right ways and their folk/rock stylings are enjoyably middle-of-the-road. A tune like ‘Lady Gypsy’ is a crystallised version of Brent’s character: all swagger and stiffness.
That said, the supporting characters are underwritten, and there are moments that feel loose, and not properly thought out. There are still times when the original wit and humour of the television show feels lacking: gaps that may very well leave you wanting to go back and enjoy the original show in order to get your entertainment fix.
Originally published on 24 August 2016 at the following website: http://thebrag.com/arts/david-brent-life-road
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