Brent revival is a big risk for Gervais - but it just about works

David Brent: Life On The Road is one of the year's most anticipated British movies.

Sunday, 28th August 2016, 12:00 pm
Natalie Stendall.

Film reviewer for Mansfield and Ashfield Chads
Natalie Stendall. Film reviewer for Mansfield and Ashfield Chads

Brent, the needy, egotistical, socially awkward star of TV mockumentary The Office is iconic and reviving him is creator Ricky Gervais’s biggest risk to date.

David Brent is working in sales but he’s no longer in charge and, behind his thin facade, the comedown stings.

Instead, Brent’s based in an open-plan telesales department complete with another joker and an office bully who intimidates them both.

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Brent’s courage to try something new, throwing himself into a self-funded music tour with hired band Foregone Conclusion is admirable.

Yet the virtue is tempered by Brent’s warped idea that fame will bring him happiness.

He’s still suffering the fallout from public reaction to The Office but this rich material remains largely untapped, lost instead behind a barrage of repetitive gags.

Brent’s songs, from Native American to Equality Street, are still so politically incorrect we want to curl up and pretend this isn’t happening, yet Gervais is kinder to Brent here than he’s ever been.

Since Derek, Gervais seems softer and the final act has heaps of heart and soul. Watching Brent strive for popularity in the face of co-workers and bandmates who openly dislike him is never easy but Gervais throws in a handful of characters who can see Brent’s gentler side.

David Brent: Life On The Road isn’t as funny, as smart or as brutal as The Office but Gervais doesn’t entirely miss this opportunity to give us an older not wiser, more desperate Brent and the closure is sublime.