Ricky Gervais’ fictional character David Brent returns to grace audiences on the big screen, in a film that’s equal parts funny as it is sad.
In Life on the Road, David Brent (Ricky Gervais), the former manager at the offices of Wernham Hogg Paper Company (the fictional office from Gervais’ 2001 TV series The Office) decides to pursue a career in the music industry, by taking his band Foregone Conclusion on tour.
Gervais brings the character back to screens after being absent for the last thirteen years, in his own feature film. He plays him so well that it’s as if he never stepped away from the role. The character of Brent is hilarious, but really only in small doses. By the end of the film he almost stops being funny, after we realise the man has some serious problems (which is touched upon slightly in the film), to the point where you start feeling guilty about laughing at him – and for the most part you’re laughing at him and not with him.
Gervais, who takes on directing duties here, is well known for including this humanistic element in his work (see his show Derek for a perfect example). It works for the most part in this film, but the balance is a bit off. One minute you’re laughing at the inappropriateness of the character’s comments and the next you’re cringing and starting to worry for him. If that was the effect the director was aiming for then he succeeded, even though a focus on the pure comedy may have served the film better.
Even with all that, the film is hilarious in parts, and it’s all due to Gervais writing and portrayal of the character. His supporting cast which includes Doc Brown as Brent’s young rapper protégé Dom Johnson are all fine, but are really just there to portray the grounded normal people, further emphasising Brent’s eccentric personality.
The featured music in the film is also great, with Brent spitting out completely tasteless lyrics to songs with themes that many politically correct people would likely find offensive. This is definitely not a film for those types of people.
Fans of the UK Office, as well as fans of classic, sarcastic British humour will be glad to see Brent back in front of the camera. It’s possible they might find him overbearing, however the humour in the film is perfectly reminiscent of the character from back when he debuted fifteen years ago, and in that sense it’s a welcome return.
Gervais will release an album to coincide with the film and includes many songs from the film and tracks that were played in his YouTube series learn guitar with David Brent.