I will first confess that I was not a great fan of “The Office”. The danger with a character who is irritating and boring is that, rather than being amusing and satirical, the character himself becomes actually irritating and boring, which was how I found David Brent a lot of the time in the television series. The fact that Gervais also writes, directs and produces much of his own material also carries the danger of self indulgence.
However with “David Brent: Life On the Road”, while it is indeed sometimes more than touch self indulgent, Gervais has developed the character considerably by putting him in a different environment, while still using the same mockumentary device of the original series.
Picking up on Brent twelve years after “The Office”, he is now a travelling salesman with a cleaning and ladies’ personal hygiene products company – so no longer the boss. He is though about to go for his dream of being a rock and roll star by cashing in his pensions to bankroll a tour of the UK with the band he has got together. However the band members all hate him and are only doing it for the money – they won’t even have a drink with him after the show unless he pays them extra – and even his mate Dom (Bailey Smith) is deeply embarrassed by Brent’s ill judged efforts to use him to demonstrate his non racist credentials. And the tour itself is predictably a disaster with small and unenthusiastic audiences.
The opening scenes of Brent as the character in an office environment are a bit reminiscent of the tv series but the other characters are not as interesting or funny as his former colleagues. But once we get into the main plot of him trying to be a rock and roll singer, the film actually perks up a lot. Many of the songs, where he is trying to be cringingly political correct and getting it so wrong, such as “Please don’t make fun of the disabled” pitched at an uncomfortable looking wheelchair user in his audience, are very funny and the pathos of the character and his hopeless dream along with his basic loneliness also come across appealingly. It is of course also all in the best possible bad taste.
There is some good supporting cast work too, particularly from Bailey Smith (aka Doc Brown) as Dom the frustrated rapper, who eventually gets to do his stuff and terrific stuff it is, and Nathan D Williams, as the cynical sound man to the group.
Despite the film’s weaknesses, fans of The Office may well enjoy seeing the character again in a different environment.
Review by Carol Allen