When it comes to comedy, there’s no such thing as a graceful retirement. More than a decade after the (note perfect) conclusion of The Office on TV, the movie debut of Slough’s most excruciating middle manager is a mixed blessing.
Attempting to launch his career as a rock star – a subject close to the heart of writer, director, producer, composer and star Ricky Gervais, who was in 1980s no-hit wonders Seona Dancing – Brent is funny as ever, but the film around him is rickety as hell.
When Brent’s expounding his hard-won wisdom, the laughs come thick and fast, as if Gervais has been storing up Brent-style asides for years. And the songs he performs with backing band Foregone Conclusion are spot on, from the depressing drivetime rock of Life On The Road (“Hard shoulder, coffee holder”) to the could-be-Coldplay sweep of Electricity (co-written with Chris Martin). But the secondary characters feel like after-thoughts, and repeated jokes about race relations and people with disabilities don’t always land as intended. You wonder why a comedian as talented as Gervais has to aim for the floor to get ROFLs.
Following an excellent start and indifferent middle, the last act proves ruinously sentimental, as Brent’s band-mates inexplicably overcome their antipathy towards him to rally round for an unearned happy ending. It’s as if the movie, as well as the character, is so desperate to be liked it can’t help but scupper itself. Pity, because for 45 minutes there this was looking like the comeback of the year.
‘David Brent: Life on the Road’ Movie Times