Some people swear by Ricky Gervais, and some just swear at him. Here he resurrects the character that made him famous: the hopelessly embarrassing David Brent, centrepiece of the BBC series The Office, who’s exactly as cringe-inducing – and unfunny – as ever, even after 15 years or so.
For some reason a camera crew is again following Brent, who still desperately wants to be a rock star, and the results are a ‘documentary’ that Brent hopes might be something like Martin Scorsese’s Rolling Stones epic Shine A Light, but which is rather more a sort of ‘Where Are They Now?’ outing.
Or, actually, a ‘Where The Hell Have They Been – And Why Didn’t They Stay There?’ outing. Brent describes himself as star of the doco series The Office and starts to fill us in on what’s been happening: how he was made redundant at Wernham Hogg and now works as a travelling rep for a toiletries sales firm where his colleagues have, shall we say, mixed feelings about him, how he fancies himself a serious musician and how he still thinks he’s a master of un-PC humour. Immediately fans and non-fans should be uneasy because we’re seemingly meant to feel slightly sorry for Brent as he’s such a deluded fool.
This creepy streak of sentimentality is possibly to do with the fact that Gervais wrote, directed and produced this one with no input from Office co-creator Stephen Merchant. Has there been a falling-out between the two? Insert awkward David Brent giggle here. Anyway, Brent teams up with his rapper mate Dom Johnson (Ben Bailey Smith a.k.a. Doc Brown), who he’s probably friends with solely because Johnson is, as Brent keeps explaining, ‘mixed race’, then unites a band of unwilling musos to commence an ill-advised and awfully expensive tour mostly in and around Reading.
From there the ‘best’ of the Gervais-penned songs truly start (Ooh La La, Native American, Please Don’t Make Fun Of The Disableds [sic] and the familiar Equality Street). They’re really just bland and not terrible enough to be amusing. Or amusing enough to be amusing, come to that. But wait: there’s life in the old boy yet, as Gervais has promised to release a whole album of Brent-ish ditties, and why wouldn’t Ricky stop there?
Why not a bigscreen sequel called David Brent: The Slough Waltz? Why not another series of the English The Office, subtitled Who The Hell Is Stephen Merchant? Why not David Brent coffee mugs, T-shirts, caps, sleepwear, guitars, guitars, macaroons and training bras? The possibilities are excruciatingly endless.
David Brent: Life on the Road is in cinemas now. Rated MA.