15 – 96mins – 2016
THIS IS SPINAL CRAP
As the Twitter hashtag has long been promising, #BrentsBack, but he’s no longer the boss. 15 years after his five minutes of docu-soap fame on the BBC’s award-winning reality TV mockumentary The Office, everyone’s favourite “chilled out entertainer” lets the cameras back in for a feature length ‘After Wernham Hogg’ follow-up.
Following a Partridge-esque breakdown after his ‘star’ faded, podgy paper-merchant David Brent (Ricky Gervais) pulled himself together, slimmed down and is now a rep selling lavatory supplies office-to-office (“Who does your tampons?”) while still desperate for the limelight with the second incarnation of his former band, Foregone Conclusion.
Brent takes some unpaid leave from his day job and cashes in his pension to ‘tour’ the pubs and clubs of the local Reading area paying for everything from tour buses to hotel rooms for the entire entourage in the vain hope of snaring a record deal. Trouble is, time has not tamed Britain’s worst boss: he’s still loud, naively inappropriate and even his despairing bandmates have to be paid to have a drink with him off-stage.
Anyone disappointed by Gervais’ starry and Americanised Netflix offering Special Correspondents will be relieved to know the marmite funnyman is back on top tragi-comic form with his most famous property, once more highlighting the good, bad and ugly of societal manners with a combination of ‘unscripted’ gold and talking heads. Nervous around the opposite sex and frequently overcompensating by over-explaining every song, lyric or joke, Brent is as hilariously cringey as ever; so desperate to be like he steers people away.
With none of The Office workmates (or co-creator Stephen Merchant) returning, we are introduced to a new bunch of sympathisers (joker Tom Bennett, Eddie the Eagle‘s endearing Jo Hartley), antagonists (PhoneShop‘s Andrew Brooke as the office bully) and those who would just rather be anywhere else but near David Brent. Rapper Dom Johnson (Doc Brown, AKA. Ben Bailey Smith) returns as the reluctant wordsmith after co-starring in the 2013 Comic Relief music video Equality Street.
Writer/director/star Gervais piles the misery on a little thick at times, leaving the eventual ‘not everyone’s a heartless dick’ twist a little late, but Life on the Road is otherwise as hysterical, painful, tear-inducing and lovably unlovable as the caustic Slough-based icon has ever been – with the added bonus of an infectiously cheesy soundtrack to boot.
CR@B’s Claw Score: