David Brent: Life on the Road Review

#BrentsBack?


For a few years now, David Brent has been creeping back onto our TVs, radios and even on stage, so it was inevitable really that he would hit the big screen at some point. David Brent: Life on the Road is a “where are the now” documentary follow up to The Office; which of course David has mistaken for a documentary about himself and his band “Foregone Conclusion” in a Shine a Light-type scenario.

David Brent was once the face of the BBC, and The Office was the jewel in the BBC’s comedy crown. For twelve episodes and a two part Christmas special we got to know the staff of Wernham Hogg Paper Company. There was Tim Canterbury and Dawn Tinsley, Gareth Keenan and Big Keith. But most of all there was the manager, David Brent. David was a fool and often mistook respect for friendship, and his ill-fated attempts at humour and camaraderie with his employees often went down in flames to cringe inducing effect.

db office

His humour may have come across as racist, homophobic and misogynistic at times but by the end of the series we see that David is none of these things and that he cares deeply for his friends and employees, and in the end he gains the friendship he was looking for, gets the girl and overcomes the office bully.

It’s slightly off then that at the start of Life on the Road David seems to have forgotten every lesson The Office had taught him. He is no longer a manager he is a traveling sales rep, he lost the girl it seems (she is never mentioned) and he is once again being picked on by an office bully.

David kicks things off with a walk into the office, an homage to the original, and introduces us to his new co-workers, innuendo and social faux pas ensues and a particularly cringe inducing comedy routine involving several racist and homophobic accents. It’s business as usual in the office so far; and then David takes time off from work to tour with his band and his life and film start to devolve before our eyes.

LOTR_D022-0128.CR2

For a film in the form of a where-are-they-now documentary, having David as the only focal point just feels off. There is almost no mention of Wernham Hogg and absolutely no mention of what the other employees are up to know and I found myself wondering what Gareth, Dawn and Tim were up to far more than wanting to watch David a lot of the time.

In a last ditch attempt at fame and fortune David has decided to follow his musical aspirations and take his band on the road. This is where the biggest problem with Life on the Road lies; by taking David out of the office we lose the chance to learn about his colleagues and the band that he travels with are so underdeveloped it’s easy to forget they exist. There is no reprieve from David Brent’s on screen presence and shortly the film starts to become a little unbearable as he stumbles from one awkward situation to the next.

That’s not to say the film is devoid of humour, there are some classic Brentisms on display here, watching David explain the hidden meaning to a song to two female colleagues did bring a tear of laughter to my eye. As well watching David clear a dance floor of females with his seductive dancing.

David and Foregone Conclusion

David and Foregone Conclusion

David does have one other co-star and that is his protégé an aspiring rapper named Dom whom David manages. But again like the rest of the cast Dom is just so underdeveloped it’s hard to make a connection with him and I found it hard to see why he spent so much time with David if he disliked him so much or as he points out at one point, is doing too much damage to his credibility.

It’s not that Brent is acted badly, in fact I think Ricky was on top form giving Brent a slight hangdog expression at times, like all the sadness and failures are slowing getting him down. One quite interesting development comes as we see David in counselling and he talks a little about why he desires to be famous and liked, and someone in the office mentions that they think the cameras are bad for David as he plays up to them and it’s making him destroy everything around him. But instead of delving into these issues they are left by the way side as quickly as they are introduced.

It also felt wrong to me that the film seems to ignore all the build up to Brent’s return, the Equality Street and Lady Gypsy music videos for example are seemingly non existent and separate from events of the film, I would have been interested in seeing a foolish David sink his money into music videos, to flesh out the futility of what he is attempting, and showcasing the degree of dedication he is putting into his sure-to-fail musical career.

Lady Gypsie

Lady Gypsy

I was expecting so much more from Brent’s return and the only conclusion I can draw is actually pointed out in the film rather fittingly actually. In a scene where David goes on a radio talk show to promote his band and their tour the DJ asks quite simply why after over a decade has passed since the office aired should David expect and one to remember or care about him.

So what did you think? Did you enjoy David Brent? let us know in the comments


– Dan P

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