Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Fifteen years after being made redundant from Wernham Hogg, David Brent is a sales rep for a cleaning products company. In his spare time, he pursues his dreams of becoming a rock star. As he’s rejoined by the old documentary team, he takes three weeks holiday, hires a band with his pension savings, and goes off on his big tour – mainly taking in venues around Berkshire.

It’s presented in a similar style to The Office, with humour mainly coming from Brent’s delusional ambitions and everyone else’s frustration with him; there are a lot of genuine laughs, particularly for fans of the cringe-inducing style of humour you’d expect from this character. While some of the awful songs are entertaining, however, they do all repeat the same gag – with titles like ‘Please Don’t Make Fun of the Disableds’ and ‘Native American’, Brent wants to be seen as compassionate, but causes more offence and makes everyone uncomfortable – and this does get tiring quickly.

The bigger problem with Life on the Road, though, is that it lacks the humanity of The Office, in which likeable characters including Tim and Dawn would offset Brent and prevent him becoming too grating. 

Later on, there’s an attempt to get both viewers and other characters to sympathise with Brent. But this comes rather abruptly, with the self-obsessed musician not learning anything or developing, and so the more optimistic note on which the film ends feels tacked on and undeserved. Gervais wants us to cringe at his humour, but it’s this shoddy writing that will make you want to look away.


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