It has been just under thirteen years since we said a fond farewell to David Brent in the Christmas Special finale of The Office, when he had been made redundant as regional manager of Slough’s branch of paper merchants Wernham Hogg. Ricky Gervais returns without his co-writer Stephen Merchant to produce, direct, and star in David Brent: Life on the Road, which offers a ‘where are they now?’ revisit to the socially inept and inappropriate character. Now working as a sales-rep for cleaning products firm Lavichem, he takes annual leave to chase his pipedream as front man of the newly reformed rock-band Foregone Conclusion, embarking on a tour to achieve ultimate success and superstardom.
This feels very much like a continuation of the television series in terms of the use of humour and the mockumentary-style that it arguably pioneered in the early noughties. Brent’s old colleagues are replaced by new, but similar faces, some supportive and some ridiculing him as he moves from one hilariously cringey moment to the next. What boosts the narrative from its sitcom roots to the cinematic stage is the spinal-tap-esque scenes when Brent’s group hits the road. The live music sequences help break up the usual gags to elevates the material and give a platform for the politically incorrect but excellent soundtrack, with suitably controversial tracks such as Native American and Please Don’t Make Fun of the Disableds bringing big laughs to the piece.
Gervais slips comfortably back into his most iconic role, managing not to overdo it and also to give more depth to the lonely soul with an interesting nervous breakdown subplot. He gels very well with his new supporting cast, reuniting with Ben Bailey Smith who plays aspiring rap star Dom Johnson. The pair released a Comic Relief single Equality Street together a few years ago and enjoy a bizarre on-screen chemistry. Others than shine amongst the cast are Tom Basden as the irritable band manager Dan and Tom Bennett as Brent’s gormless chum Nigel who fills the shoes of Gareth Keenan as the office halfwit.
Life on the Road is a well written, clever and justified reintroduction to David Brent, and is by far Gervais’ best work since Extras. As a human being, he hasn’t progressed at all and the trajectory of his arc is very much the same but I wouldn’t want him any other way. Talking modestly to the camera about his rock-star lifestyle, Brent says ‘On the road is where I really come alive’. This of course is an exaggeration, but on the road he is as entertaining, funny and current as he ever was. Live fast, die old.
See the trailer: