David Brent: Life On The Road – The DVDfever Cinema Review

David Brent

David Brent: Life On The Road shows that when it comes to his character from The Office, Ricky Gervais is having the last laugh. And it’s on us.

Gervais once used to make fresh, original comedy programmes. The first two series of The Office were fantastic. Then, after his character was sacked, the 2003 Christmas Special showed the man pursuing his dream of becoming a rock star, and the fickle finger of fame that petered out. In 2013, he made a Comic Relief sketch, where David Brent sang a rap song called Equality Street, with Doc Brown. In 2016, he’s made a film which largely treads the same water as the 2003 Christmas Special and he also sings a rap song. Called Equality Street. With Doc Brown. He plays rapper Dom Johnson (yes, Don Johnson… geddit? Well, I goddit in 2005 when I saw Bill Murray in the brilliant Broken Flowers, his character being named Don Johnston.

So, if you thought only Independence Day: Resurgence would rehash old content, then Ricky Gervais has done it too, sucking on Satan’s shilling in a bid to get more fame for precious little work. What a shame.

I did attempt to go into this, hoping it could recapture some of The Office‘s magic, but like Brent stating that this was “one last push to make it in this business”, this film quickly felt of similar flat desperation.

What we often get is very dated humour after 15 years since his famous sitcom first began, but that’s meant to be the joke. Yes, the joke is that we’re not meant to be laughing. Well, bar two laughs (including one big one) and some slight titters (he’s been cashing in pensions to fund his journey, stating “some are worth as much now as what I’ve put into them”), he’s succeeded with this. Had he made this film by 2006 at the latest, it could still work.


Pauline (Jo Hartley) and David Brent (Ricky Gervais)

Originally, Martin Freeman, Mackenzie Crook and Lucy Davis were working alongside the character, but they’re (wisely for them) nowhere to be seen. They’re making US sitcoms or struggling in low-budget Hollywood movies like Pirates of the Caribbean, The Hobbit and Wonder Woman. Now, Gervais is, like Brent, clearly wondering at what point his life forked the wrong road because he hasn’t reached those dizzy heights (albeit should be making enough money out of films like Muppets Most Wanted and the forthcoming The Wind In The Willows), yet still wants to buzz round the UK loud enough for us to hear, a bit like James Corden, now presenting a late-night US talk show, yet still forcing crappy insurance adverts upon us.

All that said, I can understand Gervais wanting to portray a character determined to be a rock star, since the man himself was one half of long-forgotten ’80s pop duo, Seona Dancing, who I never heard of at the time, and only once Office success had occurred, but their two songs – More To Lose and Bitter Heart (above and below) – are actually bloody wonderful and I have the extended versions on my MP3 player and, if these didn’t already exist, you’d think they’d been recreated as great ’80s-sounding song, a la Sing Street.

Of the (intentionally) terrible songs in this film, the one I had a real problem with was “Don’t Make Fun of the Disabled”. It takes a lot to make me take offence at something that’s meant to be comedy, but it was just downright offensive and while I get that’s the character’s ‘schtick’, Gervais knows better and of course the reason he still puts it in is because David Brent is a character that is so un-self-aware that he picks on fat people even though – through doctored photographs – his character got fat inbetween now and when we last saw him. And that’s before we even get to the rape joke. And the racist jokes about Irish and Chinese. Yes, while David Brent just used to make basic crude humour, as well as occasionally trying not to be offensive about disabilities, but since we last saw him, he’s regressed back to the ’70s.

Seona Dancing – More To Lose (12 Inch Ultimate Mix)

There are some plusses to this movie, however:

  • Diane Morgan (best known as Philomena Cunk from a variety of Charlie Brooker ‘wipe’ shows) as PR lady Bryony
  • Roisin Conaty and Ashley McGuire (both best known as Jo and Shakira in Channel 4’s Man Down) as two accidental groupies
  • the lovely Mandeep Dhillon (best known for BBC3’s Some Girls)
  • a tattoo shop sketch
  • and… it’s not the Ghostbusters reboot.

I think I’ll struggle to find a worse film all year. Well, there was the Dad’s Army reboot.

While I did hear a few titters from the couple a few rows back, there was another couple in front of me, the female half stepping out for 10 minutes, just half-an-hour into this 96-minute movie. I presume she’d nipped out for a cig, but then returned with more snacks for her and her boyfriend. Clearly, this film made such an impression on her that she didn’t mind paying £15 for the reclining seats only to miss part of what she had come to see.

Other than that, Brent continues to be so unliked that he has to pay his band, Foregone Conclusion, to have a drink with him, similar to Extras when he had to pay £60 to sit on the posh seats, only to realise they’re the SAME seats, and that STILL no-one cared who his character was.

There was also a moment towards the end (which I won’t describe here) which Jason Solomons started to give chapter and verse about on the BBC News Film Review, and I had to mute it, although I’d heard too much (give away something about a film’s end? really???)

Beyond that, it’s got some interesting ideas about having to try something because if you don’t, then you’d regret NOT trying more than you would regret trying and failing. Unfortunately, while that works for Brent, it doesn’t work for Gervais.

Go to page 2 for more thoughts about this film…

Seona Dancing – Bitter Heart

Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.


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