Monday, 6 February 2017


David Brent: Life On The Road [2016]

So last night I finally sat down and got around to watching David Brent: life on the Road. I’ve been putting it off, it felt almost like that feeling of having to send a text you don’t want to, but you know you’ve got to sooner or later. I did my best to go into it with an open mind. Ricky Gervais is one of my favourite all time content providers, but his feature lengths have always been sub par. As has his treatment of The Office since the final episode in December 2003. After a series of webisodes teaching viewers how to play the guitar (?) a few years back it seemed he had turned back on his original claims of laying it The Office to rest. It’s safe to say I wasn’t expecting much but did my best to go into it without expectations or preconceived notions. A friend of mine who will remain unnamed prompted me to watch it the day before I did promising me it was actually good despite the reviews. I wanted it to be good as I sat down.

It was not good. It was fucking awful. What it was was regurgitated jokes from the original show reboxed and with a narrative. I don’t mean similar humour, I mean literally the same jokes. A scene with a novelty face disguise. Brent being pulled into the office of a superior over a tasteless racist joke. Brent killing the room whilst on stage at a students union. The garish dance routine. These are not similar themes to The Office, this is literally the same stuff repackaged. I could not believe what I was watching. The list goes on.

To top it off the supporting lead is Doc Brown, potentially the least funny man on TV. Doc Brown is one of those ‘comedians’ who fuses music and comedy. A formula that seems to dazzle everyone, except for me. The problem is Doc Brown has a very particular unique brand of comedy. One that isn’t funny. Despite being the straight man for most of the scenes alongside Gervais his face is a painful reminder of what we are working with here.

The thing that made The Office so wonderful was how authentic it was. It literally got mistaken for a documentary when it aired. In my eyes there aren’t many real mocumentaries around these days. With the American Office growing to be the giant it was the style mocumentaries were shot in has changed somewhat. Like the piss poor Derek Gervais put out, it’s a shame to see Life on the Road followed suit with this style change. In the original Office scenes were shot with 2 or 3 cameras and no impossible angles, meaning mid scene when flipping from one subject to another the cameras would be at angles where they would not be in each others shot. Often making do to flip between subjects as if a real documentary crew were inside the office. Life on the Road adopts the modern style (as appropriated by the American Office) where scenes have 5/6 different camera angles depending on different subjects and what angles would suit the scenes cinematically. This sounds dreadfully like I’m trying to be a smart arse but I hope I’ve explained this well enough. The point is it constantly breaks the illusion of the film being an actual documentary, there by rendering the whole thing a bit thin. Subjects are caught on camera in places where they are seemingly alone. It makes for very diluted viewing.

Then to come onto Brent himself. In the original series of the Office way back in 2001 Ricky Gervais was just a pasty fat bloke from Reading who had done a bit of radio. He looked like a middle manager at a paper merchant. Years later Gervais is somewhat slimmer and well kept. He cannot help this obviously. I’d hope that if I’d made millions in Hollywood I’d be a bit more well kept than I was 15 years ago. However this is another great reason to leave David Brent alone. The subtlety that made The Office so incredible is completely lost as the humour is dumbed down and over saturated. It’s just different. It’s a real shame Ricky Gervais has not just let a sleeping dog lie.

The way The Office ended was iconic TV. A series full of such wonderful, relatable characters ends with everyones personal storylines being wrapped up nicely. It ended on a high. I think it speaks volumes that Stephan Merchant, Gervais’s right hand man during the writing process of The Office and Extras wanted nothing to do with this film. Neither did any of the original cast members. It really clearly hasn’t been made for anything other than to line Gervais’s pockets and it shows. As much as I adore The Office I don’t think this film was made for me or my generation of Office viewers. It felt a lot like Arctic Monkeys ‘AM’ in the sense that although it’s the same faces you remember from back when they were incredible, the project has been created for new fans who are keen to subscribe to the legacy. Out of everyone I know who really loves the Office I’ve heard a good review from one person. It breaks my heart to see what is one of the most wonderfully perfect things ever created by humans reduced to this shite. A film released 15 years on shouldn’t taint the original Office, but it does.

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