David Brent: Life on the Road

Aug 21, 2016 | Posted by in Movies
David Brent

Ricky Gervais brings back everyone’s favourite clueless boss in David Brent: Life on the Road which sees Brent trying to revive his music career with a self funded tour.

I will happily go on record as someone who was a huge fan of The Office back in the day. It was the perfect blend of wit and awkwardness that just sticks in the mind as something truly special. David Brent was always a great character as well. He’s well meaning but completely unaware of how inappropriate he is much of the time. It’s always clear to the audience what people around him think of him but he lives in a self imposed delusion where he thinks everyone is entertained by his antics.

The Office didn’t outstay its welcome with only two seasons and two Christmas specials to speak of. To my mind it had the perfect send-off and didn’t really need to be revisited again. Seeing Brent crop up in the American version was a nice novelty but I didn’t have a burning desire to see more of him beyond that.

After watching this film I still feel like that. David Brent is a classic comedy character and that will never change but I don’t see why Ricky Gervais felt the need to revisit him.

David BrentThe film picks up 15 years after the in universe documentary and David Brent is working as a Sales Rep. He’s having the same sort of trouble in his current role as he did back in The Office. Most of the people around him find him irritating, he gets told off for telling inappropriate jokes and Brent generally conducts himself being unaware that anything he does might offend other people.

In essence it seems like Brent has essentially been reset to the man he was when we first saw him. As the film progresses we learn that he has had a battle with his own mental health and is in a more fragile state than the last time we saw him so it makes sense that he would somewhat regress to the man he was before beginning to learn any of his life lessons.

The tour he embarks on is classic Brent, the venues he has been signed up to play in are tiny and close to his home. He sells next to no tickets and forges on in complete denial about the whole thing. The only hints of his doubts are a little defeated sounding giggle that appears more and more as he starts to realise that nearly bankrupting himself to finance his dream might not have been the best idea.

We follow Brent around documentary style as he goes from venue to venue trying to put a brave face on the whole situation and slowly failing. One of the long running gags is that the band that he has paid to tour with him don’t want to spend any time with him outside of what they are being paid to do because they find him so insufferable. This is something that weighs on Brent as the film progresses and we get frequent updates on how the people who have to spend time with him are feeling.

The best description I have for this whole thing is an onslaught of grimness. Everything just gets progressively worse for Brent to the point that he can’t even ignore the signs that this has been a waste of time. I found myself unable to laugh because I felt so sorry for him. Maybe that’s exactly the joke and if so then it works beautifully. It becomes compulsive viewing to watch him continue to fail and I had a genuine desire to see some success come his way.

In a lot of ways it’s a perfect story for David Brent to be in. He’s a man who believes in following his dream and has a really naive view of passion being the most important thing but the reality of his situation is crushing.

Gervais effortlessly sinks back into the role of David Brent. Everything that you might remember about his performance as this character is completely intact and he does a great job throughout as you might expect. His performance makes him as endearing as ever with the vacant stares as his jokes don’t land are note perfect.

The film suffers in its treatment of other characters. Most of the time is spent with his band who aren’t all that well developed outside of periodic comments they make about their opinions of him. The most well developed character is Dom (Doc Brown), a rapper that Brent recruits as proof that he’s not racist. Their interactions are amusing enough and Dom is a good foil for Brent’s over the top personality. There are no characters here that can hope to match the likes of Tim, Dawn or Gareth from The Office but this is Brent’s show and maybe that’s sort of the point. It’s a shame that the laser focus on him brings the film down slightly.

There are a number of songs throughout the film and some of them are actually fairly catchy. Having them be completely terrible wouldn’t work quite as well since we know from The Office that Brent is a capable musician so having them be somewhere between “just fine” and “good” is really fitting. They’re definitely not good enough to launch him into the success he wants but they’re not terrible to listen to. I wonder if there will be a campaign to get his Christmas song to number 1 in the UK charts this year. I’d buy it!

I suppose the real question is if this needed to be a film that was out in cinemas? I’d say not because the whole thing does start to drag. It would have worked so much better as a three part TV special as it would have allowed the story to flow better without it feeling as if it drags like it does here. Maybe like Brent, Gervais is aiming just a little too high.


A fairly entertaining return for one of the most iconic characters in comedy. The whole thing drags on a bit long but Gervais does a great job of bringing Brent back in all his awkward glory. If the intention was to make the audience feel sorry for him then it certainly worked on me. It would have worked better as a TV special but what we get certainly isn’t bad at all.

  • 7/10
    David Brent: Life on the Road - 7/10


Kneel Before…

  • David Brent’s characterisation
  • a fitting story for the character
  • somewhat catchy songs

Rise Against…

  • underdeveloped characters
  • uneven pacing
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