David Brent: Life on the Road August 17, 2016 DAVID BRENT: LIFE ON THE ROAD (UK/16/95mins) Directed by Ricky Gervais. Starring Ricky Gervais, Ben Bailey Smith, Jo Hartley, Tom Basden, Andrew Brooke, Tom Bennett, Mandeep Dhillon. THE PLOT: “That was then, this is now,” states former reality TV star and now sanitary salesman David Brent (Gervais), but, in truth, it’s the same as it ever was for this not-exactly-beautiful loser. He may have moved on from being Slough’s no.1 paper merchant manager, but The Thick White Duke is more determined than ever to fulfil his teenage dream of becoming a rock star, throwing a few more mortgages at a wide-eyed backing band and an upcoming young rapper (Smith), using the latter’s blatant promise as an alibi to go on the road. And dominate the mic. As the tour progresses, the divide between Brent and the rest of the band – and reality – begins to widen, with the distinct lack of screaming fans ringing ever louder in their ears… THE VERDICT: Once again exploring that fine line between dreamer and deluded eejit, Ricky Gervais’ most famous comic creation returns 15 years after ‘The Office’ first broke through – and he’s possibly even more of a sad-sack these days. The comic device of a no-hope band going on tour has become something of a cliche in itself, although the results here are probably more ‘Anvil: The Story Of Anvil’ than the original of the species, ‘This Is Spinal Tap’, with the empty rock posturing in front of tiny and indifferent pub audiences offset by the gradual painting of Brent as someone who just needs to be loved. Or even just liked. Brent is the sort of nervous under-achieving braggard who’s been having a mid-life crisis from about the age of 15, so, as those crippling 50s approach, a real dry-mouth desperation has kicked in. Like so many, many would-be stars out there, David Brent is a Bob Parr who never had his Mr Incredible years, and is beginning to feel ever so slightly lost and desperate. The man is drowning, and he knows that, for many people, it’s very tempting not to throw him a lifebuoy. Even if it’s right beside you. To offset all that cringe-inducing comedy, Gervais ultimately aims for a little tenderness – as, not long before the closing credits, the band gradually grow to like him, and that sweetheart back in the office finally breaks through his slapstick bravado. Such a happy ending doesn’t quite ring true though. At its best, ‘David Brent: Life On The Road’ is still very much another Slough day at the office, with the biggest laughs coming from that huge, gaping black hole between the dream and the reality. It’s a gap best personified here by Brent finally getting two women to come back to his hotel room, only for this particular San and Tray to ravish his mini-bar rather than his body. We’ve all been there… RATING: 4/5 Review by Paul Byrne emerb I’ve watched a few episodes of “The Office” in the past but I’m far from a dedicated follower and if I’m honest, I haven’t particularly missed Brent in the past 12 years since the last episode of the original series was run. However, for those who have been pining for him, Brent is back and in his familiar sparkling form. He is now the subject of his own feature-length film, “David Brent: Life OnThe Road”, and he hasn’t changed one bit. Having been through a breakdown, a Prozac addiction and hours of therapy, he is more grotesque, more embarrassing, and more humiliated by life than ever. Written, directed and starring the man himself – Ricky Gervais – it’s a rehash that doesn’t particularly develop the character nor betray him. It just assumes that we are happy to see the return of his most famous character and it picks up just where we left him – despised by his fellow workers and still pursuing his dream of ‘Brentertainment’. Brent has invited documentary cameras in so we can follow his bumpy road to stardom. It’s a few years after the filming of The Office and David Brent is working as a travelling sales rep at Lavichem, a Slough-based cleaning products supplier that sells scourers, dish cloths and tampons. At his former workplace Wernham Hogg, Brent was largely tolerated as a harmless nuisance but here he finds himself with a fresh stable of colleagues and largely friendless. He is now middle-aged, fed up, his aggressive sales people openly bully him and so he needs an escape plan. Using his pension, he takes some unpaid leave and hits the road for a three week tour with some paid session musicians and a rapping protege Dom (Ben Bailey Smith). Dom is a decent guy, a nice bloke who basically wants the best for Brent, even if he’s often the butt of his assumptions about race. The film sees him travel the open road with his band, Foregone Conclusion, who hate him. The gigs are very sparsely attended events and he has to finance the whole tour himself, including the bus, accommodation and staging. We are treated to a number of Foregone Conclusion songs, most of which are in terribly bad taste and calling for compassion: for black people, gays, disabled and mentally ill. It’s all bordering on the outrageous but hey, that’s Brent! Hard to tell how successful this movie will be. Ricky Gervais is like marmite – love him or loathe him. There is a danger that younger audiences won’t be familiar with David Brent and hence lack enthusiasm. There is also a danger that those of us who are familiar might be tired of him, feeling that after two series and two Christmas specials, Brent had had his day. Then there are the dedicated followers who will relish the thought of spending an evening in the company of one of the most plausible and witty comic creations ever invented. No doubt about it, this is very definitely a movie for the fans and is unlikely to convert any newbies. However, even after all the years, Gervais is still the perfect fit for the character and “David Brent: Life On The Road” serves as a reminder of what made the series so successful. While the big screen revival suffers from the lack of chemistry of the show’s ensemble cast, it is in no short supply of laughs, if you “get” this type of humour. I’m on the fence but I do think it’s worth seeing in order to make up your own mind.