David Brent: Life on the Road

In 2003 we said goodbye to the employees of Wernham Hogg for the last time. The paper merchants in the lively town of Slough, home to the largest industrial estate in the whole of Europe, had for the previous two years been the subject of a hit BBC documentary called “the Office”.

From Tim the 30 something frustrated sales rep who still lives with his parents, to “Team Leader” Territorial army reserve and Jellyphobe Gareth to Dawn, the dogsbody receptionist… who if her boyfriend isn’t interested anymore Monkey Alan in the warehouse fancies. Each brought their character and charm to the series but obviously the stage was mostly David Brents. The jovial joke telling jester in charge of the the workplace.We knew he’d be back at some point, but in his own feature film? Does David Brent have what it takes to take center stage? The answer is… definetely maybe.The back story here if you didn’t already know is that “the Office”, was a sitcom (DUNN DUNN DANNNN) I know for some that’s a “no shiz sherlock” moment but it was made in 2003, that’s 14 years ago, there may be some people reading this that were still pooping themselves when it came out and it’s the British version I might add. There may well be folk unaquainted with any version but the Steve Carrell version. I’ve no doubt most people have heard of David Brent’s creator though Ricky Gervais.Growing up in the UK and being into alternative music Gervais was a staple on Xfm radio, the station of choice for greasy haired metal kids mooching around London in an age before easily accessible internet connections. Him and his writing partner pushed the boundaries of taste most Saturday afternoons, annoying the owners by playing tracks all the way through without talking, while encouraging people to tape it unhindered and creating games like “penis puppet theatre”. From there he had a short lived talk show and moved into podcasts before the mega hit “the office” took off. Since then it’s all been bigger and better things, More tv shows, feature films and award ceremonies. It was only a matter of time till he dug back into the well for another run with Brent.
The story so far… after being fired from Wernham Hogg, Brent is now working as a sales rep for a bathroom supply company. He’s saved money from his time on TV and now taking unpaid leave from his work, to embark on a tour of the local area to kickstart his musical career. Along for the ride is his young ethnically diverse friend Dom, Dan the sound engineer and a group of session musicians he’s hired to replace his former band “Foregone Conclusion”. In typical Brent fashion it’s all about big dreams with very little payoff where everyone is against him… unless he’s paying them.

The problem with the film is that it’s everything you’ve seen before, with a cast of characters brought in brand new for the movie he doesn’t really have anyone to bounce back off as well as he did in the series. He reaches for the stars, fails miserably and everybody hates him, until they realize who he is deep down. If you’ve seen any Gervais series you’ll know exactly where it’s going after a few minutes but the awkward pauses and gurning to the camera are spread out over 90+ minutes with very little to break them up. One respite is his trip to see his psychiatrist and the knowledge that he took his time out of the spotlight a bit harder than we were led to believe but it’s not really a fork in the road, more a speed bump.

It’s not all bad though. There are still some funny moments to be had, the musical interludes are the highlights and hit the peak of cringe humor with “Please Don’t Make Fun of the Disabled”. The overall movie I would have to say is fine… if you’re a fan. If you’re not into his style then it’ll only serve to make you hate him more. I think it would have been better off being an hour long Christmas special rather than a feature film and then vastly improved if they brought back some of the old cast… Although I’m not sure I would have forgiven him if Tim & Dawn weren’t happily married.