Starring: Ricky Gervais, Doc Brown, Tom Basden
Director: Ricky Gervais
Running Time: 96 mins
David Brent: Life On The Road is a British film following former regional manager of Wernham Hogg, David Brent, a decade and a half after his appearance on the documentary The Office, now chasing his dream of becoming a rock star as he tours the Berkshire area with a crew of unhappy bandmates.
This film is meant to be painful. David Brent is a brilliantly disgusting piece of work that’s designed to make you cringe all day long and wish failure onto him. In The Office, that character works fantastically, but in Life On The Road, it doesn’t. Whilst Brent is just as excruciating to watch as always, he’s far more irritating than funny, due to this film’s screenplay, directing and running time.
In fact, the running time is probably the film’s biggest problem. 96 minutes isn’t long by cinema standards, but when it comes to watching a TV character who you can barely withstand for half an hour, it feels like a marathon.
In The Office, Brent is awful to watch throughout each episode, but it’s a hilarious and thrilling challenge to watch him in the most painfully awkward and cringeworthy scenarios imaginable, and try to stand it for 30 minutes. What’s more is that he never occupied all of the screen time on the show, which lots of attention being given to the main side characters, Tim, Dawn and Gareth.
Life On The Road, however, is effectively an hour and a half of Brent, and only Brent. And that’s just a bit too much for anyone to handle.
Although Ricky Gervais does a decent job at reviving the character, and making him as hilariously irritating as possible, it’s a simple issue of taking a man that we loved to hate, and turning him into a purely annoying presence that doesn’t have a shade of the comic brilliance he had back in the TV show.
The screenplay here is also a big issue. Whilst there are more than a few very good laughs, they feel so few and far between given that every second is meant to be a big joke. Brent’s persona is a running gag, whilst the frustration of his bandmates is meant to make you laugh too, but it just doesn’t come off this way, and you spend more time watching a relatively dull film that just doesn’t have a great sense of humour.
What’s more is that the story revolves around Brent getting close to achieving his dream. I may be the only one, but part of the beauty of The Office show was that Brent didn’t succeed, and got everything he deserved for being an absolute pain in the neck. Life On The Road is a far more light-hearted film, and although that may be deliberate, it’s the wrong decision for such a deliberately loathsome character, who you want to see fail and fall further into painfully awkward depression than anything else.
Overall, I was disappointed by David Brent: Life On The Road. It’s impossible to match up to the brilliance of The Office TV show, but as far as a revival of such a legendary character goes, this is a disappointment. With a misjudged atmosphere and story that doesn’t fit the character, and too much emphasis on someone that’s absolutely unbearable, Life On The Road is an irritating film, but it’s not funny enough to make that work, and that’s why I’m giving it a 6.7.