Fifteen years after being made redundant from Wernham Hogg, David Brent is a sales rep for a cleaning products company. In his spare time, he pursues his dreams of becoming a rock star. As he’s rejoined by the old documentary team, he takes three weeks holiday, hires a band with his pension savings, and goes off on his big tour – mainly taking in venues around Berkshire.
It’s presented in a similar style to The Office, with humour mainly coming from Brent’s delusional ambitions and everyone else’s frustration with him; there are a lot of genuinely funny moments, particularly for fans of the cringe-inducing style of humour you’d expect from this character. While some of the awful songs are entertaining, however, they do all repeat the same gag – with titles like ‘Please Don’t Make Fun of the Disableds’ and ‘Native American’, Brent wants to be seen as compassionate, but causes more offence and makes everyone uncomfortable – and this does get tiring quickly.
The bigger problem with Life on the Road, though, is that it lacks the humanity of The Office, in which likeable characters including Tim and Dawn would offset Brent and prevent him becoming too grating. The closest thing here is Dom (Ben Bailey Smith, aka Doc Brown), a rapper recruited into the band. Bailey Smith puts in a charismatic performance, but the nature of his character’s story – increasingly sidelined by Brent despite being the better performer – means that he doesn’t get a lot to do other than stand by the side of the stage and look annoyed.
Later on, there’s an attempt to get both viewers and other characters to sympathise with Brent. But this comes rather abruptly, with the self-obsessed musician not learning anything or developing, and so the more optimistic note on which the film ends feels tacked on and undeserved. Gervais wants us to cringe at his humour, but it’s this shoddy writing that will make you want to look away.
That’s not to say there’s nothing to enjoy in Life on the Road. Many jokes do land, it’s only an hour and a half so doesn’t outstay its welcome, and Gervais fans will enjoy catching up with this iconic character. But more than anything, it’s not a patch on the series that spawned it; whereas The Office offered an insightful and hilarious skewering of everyday people, this is all about one person and his ego.
Extras: Music Videos / Commentary / Making Of / Outtakes / Deleted Scenes
DAVID BRENT: LIFE ON THE ROAD / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: RICKY GERVAIS / STARRING: RICKY GERVAIS, BEN BAILEY SMITH, TOM BASDEN / RELEASE DATE: DECEMBER 12TH