Written, directed, and starring Ricky Gervais, DAVID BRENT: LIFE ON THE ROAD catches up with Garvais’s iconic Brent character 12 years after the airing of the BBC mockumentary “The Office” to find the exhausting and somewhat lovable (in spite of himself) former mid-level company manager is now a traveling salesman. However, Brent’s dream of rock stardom still burns bright, so he departs for a self-financed UK tour with his band, Foregone Conclusion. Hiring a group of session musicians and teaming up with a talented aspiring rapper, Brent cashes in his pensions and takes unpaid leave in a bid to turn his dream into reality.
Trading in the crass and confrontational as he so often does, Gervais is actually very skilled in finding the humanity in the least likely of situations and character exchanges. In fact, he may be the best at demonstrating that good can be found in people whose book cover would have been judged as a lost cause.
The fact that DAVID BRENT: LIFE ON THE ROAD is a must-see for fans of “The Office” is one on the least shocking things a reviewer could say when assessing the film. Of course, the inevitable challenge with a film like this is – similar to the Brent character himself – exhaustion of concept, or a one-note joke. Gervais dutifully delivers his character’s “greatest hits”: the social misfires due to his tone-deaf insensitivity, the desperation for approval and popularity, and the benign bigotry and sexism. Added to that are jokes revolving around Brent’s music – songs that are audacious in their clichés and racial stereotypes (a particular winner is Brent’s song meant to address the abuse of Native Americans and likens them to pelicans – since, well, who knows really, other than the fact that the word pelican rhymes with American), “Spinal Tap”-esque moments of being on tour (let’s just say an attempt to energize the crowd utilizing a t-shirt gun misfires), etc. And while the film is not a raucous laugh-a-minute joke-a-rama, to be completely fair, it isn’t intended to be. Gervais trades in a lot of slow burn, “take its time” comedy that wears you down like a bit that is repeated enough times to cycle through funny to lame to “pushing it” to really funny by the time you reach its final delivery. In short, Gervais knows exactly what he is doing and how he is setting up the audience for their ultimate funny reward. The film also delivers the lesser publicized of Gervais’s talent, which is slyly delivering heart and empathy in his projects. Trading in the crass and confrontational as he so often does, Gervais is actually very skilled in finding the humanity in the least likely of situations and character exchanges. In fact, he may be the best at demonstrating that good can be found in people whose book cover would have been judged as a lost cause. Therefore, regardless of whether or not you are a hardcore “The Office” fan or a newbie to that cult hit, there is plenty to be entertained by with this additional chapter to that story.