David Brent: Life on the Road – Review (***)

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Ricky Gervais resurrects his long-mothballed most famous creation for another go-around that, while wildly unnecessary and a decidedly mixed bag, will probably do just enough to entertain David Brent’s legion of fans.

15 years after Brent (Gervais) became a widely-derided public figure on documentary show The Office, he appears in a “Where Are They Now?”-type follow-up. Brent now works as a sales rep and is exerting enormous financial expense in order to give his band, Foregone Conclusion, one final shot at the big time.

Let’s be honest; even if you’re lapping this movie up with a spoon, you probably could’ve played out the rest of your existence without another David Brent special, especially after the 2003 Christmas farewell gave the character such a satisfying send-off.

Like so many belated spin-offs, Life on the Road undoes a lot of the neat tyings-off that provided closure previously and injects a ton more drama in order to try and justify the new product’s existence.

Results do absolutely vary; though Gervais serves up another dose of squirm-in-your-seat, weapons-grade cringe that series fans should delight in, there’s also a deeply depressing undercurrent to some of the film’s more grounded implications that are arguably unnecessary although certainly achingly humanist.

The broad laughs mostly land fine, and Gervais was smart to give Brent a delightful rapping sidekick this time (Doc Brown) who steals a good number of scenes he appears in. So obviously more talented than Brent ever was, it’s clear that this young man is being held down by a richer, older man making one final grasp at the brass rings, and his exasperation is infectious.

And it’s the film’s musings on the pursuit of fame and an escape from the 9-to-5 life that resonate the deepest; the existential meditations may not be especially original, but they hit in a manner liable to make audiences feel both relief and profound melancholy.

In fact, the tone of the movie on the whole feels much more in step with Gervais’ TV show Extras rather than the somewhat more chipper The Office. It’s a bit of a shame, them, that Gervais gets gooey in the final 10 minutes for the sake of sentiment rather than arriving at a more earned, less erratic conclusion.

Ultimately, there’s not a particularly convincing reason that Life on the Road should exist beyond lining Gervais’ pockets during a fairly muted period of his career, but it provides some laughs and a little food-for-thought. This really should be the end, though (and Gervais should mean it this time).

Also, for anyone wondering if there are any shoehorned cameos from The Office alumni, surprisingly (but more plausibly) not.

***

David Brent: Life on the Road is in UK cinemas now

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