Since The Office ended in 2003, the world has been starved of David Brent. He popped up in the American version of The Office, as well as featuring in the odd segment for Comic Relief (most recently with Doc Brown for their song Equality Street), but now he’s back and bigger than ever! David Brent: Life On The Road sees the former reality TV star turned rep head out on tour with his band Foregone Conclusion to try and achieve his dream of being a rockstar.
This is what we learned from Brent’s new venture. Warning: May contain spoilers.
1) Ricky Gervais is a better David Brent in 2016 than he was in 2001. In the first series of The Office he often came across as an inexperienced comic acting for the first time‚ which is exactly what he was. Now, he’s a natural. He must’ve spent a lot of time practicing his signature ‘awkward laugh sigh’, as it’s been honed, crafted and repeated to the point your skin crawls at his embarrassment. That said, he knows how to pull on the heartstrings when it matters. Were those real tears?
2) It’s a fantastic showcase of British comedy talent that has so far been confined to the small screen. Rebecca Gethings (Extras, The Thick Of It), Diane Morgan (Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe) and stand-up comedian Roisin Conaty all make appearances and prove that homegrown talent is just as funny as any Hollywood can offer.
3) The songs are good. Strip away the lyrics about being kind to the disabled or Native American pelicans, and it’s clear Gervais knows his way around a tune. Just like Steel Panther and Spinal Tap before him, the art of being a ‘comedy’ band isn’t about writing overtly funny songs but knowing the subject material so well that the parody comes from the heart rather than cheap gags. The songs are credible and lead track Life On The Road is genuinely catchy, it’s just the performance and odd line that jacks up the humour. And hiring a “real” band to back him up was a masterstroke. The drummer is actually Andy Burrows of Razorlight and We Are Scientists fame.
4) Wernham Hogg may have been a soul-destroying place to work, but Brent’s testosterone-filled new home at Lavichem plunges new depths of misery.
5) The transition from the Brent that people don’t like at the beginning of the film to the Brent that people feel differently about the end is handled a bit clumsily. That shift is the most vital part of the story, but the viewer is never really allowed to understand why it happens.
6) Dom Johnson steals the limelight from David Brent. Despite Brent’s best attempts at being the #1 vocalist in Foregone Conclusion, his hip-hop other half puts him to shame. Played by Doc Brown, the rapped lyrics are just as awkward as Brent’s rock ‘n’ roll warblings, but when given his own time to shine on stage he tears apart Brent’s lyric book. Pelicans and all.
7) Gervais gets away with murder. Brent can sing songs many would deem offensive if they were sung by a “real” person, but they’re all performed with such innocent charm that you’re inclined to forgive. Only Gervais could shoehorn multiple uses of the ‘N’ word into a single scene and have the audience chuckling along.
David Brent: Life On The Road is in cinemas August 19.