Review of "David Brent: Life on the Road (Blu-ray)"

published 01/04/2017 | DodoRabbit
Member since : 24/05/2014
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I'm an infrequent poster but an overly frequent rater- if you've missed one of my reviews please give it a rate, particularly my latest. It's great to be back and ORANGE! :)
Super
Pro Excellent soundtrack, hilarious performances, not an 'office film', emotional.
Cons More melancholic than expected from a comedy, Repetitive in places.
exceptional
Did you enjoy it?
Story
Characters / Performances
Special Effects
Soundtrack

"Now Brent's Just a Lost and Lonely Cowboy"

A screenshot taken from Brent's Lady Gypsy music video which I urge you to watch.

A screenshot taken from Brent's Lady Gypsy music video which I urge you to watch.

David Brent. A name many people will be familiar with if they've ever seen 'The Office' , the original and best UK version that is. In 'The Office' Brent was a lovable buffoon that everyone could relate to on some level and was a character that you'd love to hate. He was an idiot but was at the top of his own game that he played. Fast forward 13 years and Brent returns, with a bang... of a cork pop gun.

Background Information

Certificate 15
Running Time 95 Minutes approx
Box Office Takings $5.51 Million
Production Company Entertainment One/BBC Films
Distributed By Entertainment One The film received a limited release in cinemas, with only Ireland, New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom receiving a theatrical release. There are the countries where 'The Office' was biggest so would have a wider appeal. Netflix has since bought the rights to all territories except those where the film received a theatrical release. There was no information for the budget of the film, but is probably is around $3-4 million (judging by the budget of the inbetweeners movie which is similar in scale).
Cast and Characters

  • Ricky Gervais stars as David Brent the lovable buffoon we all hate to love. You may remember Brent's infamous dancing and his authoritative stupidity in 'The Office'. In this film, however, Gervais portrays Brent as a stereotypical man undergoing a mid-life crisis which adds to the tragedy of his stupidity. He is a completely different man to the beloved boss he formerly was, which makes it hard to really laugh at him. The character is believable and likeable, living a dream in his mind- similar to those of reality stars from the likes of 'X-factor' and the 'Got talent' franchise.
  • Ben Bailey Smith as Dom Johnson Brent's "protege" whom you may know as 'Doc Brown' from various TV appearances (my favourite being his wrap about Kanye West and Tea). He debuted as this character for the 'Equality Street' comic relief sketch where he does a little rap, taken seriously, about equality which is just hilarious. His character plays a large part in mocking political correctness within the film as Dom is mixed race and is the subject of a lot of Brent's controversial jokes (which are done in good taste and are some of the funniest gags in the film). He has his own aspirations which often undercut Brent's own, which adds to the tragedy of the film.
  • Tom Basden as Dan the sound engineer whom Brent hires for his 'tour'. He provides the voice of harsh reality to Brent's dream. He is just a normal guy which works well to contrast with Brent's delusions.
  • Foregone Conclusion is Brent's band comprised of Andy Burrows [former member of the band 'Razorlight'], Stephen Clarke [not the writer] , Michael Clarke [Not the cricketer] and Stuart Wilkinson [Not the rugby player]. I didn't really engage with any of these characters as they weren't particularly likeable nor did they have a large enough speaking role. In the film they only play in his band for the money and it seems like it's also the reason the musicians chose to be in the film.

Other characters include
  • Jo Hartley as Pauline a fellow colleague at the bathroom supply company that Brent now works for, she is one of the few who treats Brent with respect
  • Nina Sosanya as Brent's therapist rather incompetent and insensitive, which helps add to the hilarity of Brent's dreams
  • Diane Morgan as Brent's PR manager whom you may recognise as Philomena Cunk from TV, whose deadpan incompetence is one of the highlights of the film
  • Roisin Conaty makes a brief appearances as Brent's 'one night stand' which is one of he most awkward moments in the film
  • Andrew Brooke as Jezza Brent's nemesis and his reminder that he isn't the big boss anymore and that it's a cruel world out there
  • Tom Bennett as Nigel Brent's only real friend at the firm. It's great to see the banter between them, even if it feels slightly awkward and forced in places

There are several other minor characters in the film but even some of the ones I've already listed are only in the film for under 5 minutes so I've chosen not to go over every single character. I would have liked to see cameos of some of the office characters too just as a little nod to everyone's favourite office-based sitcom.
Plot
_Following several mental breakdowns and the loss of his job as boss at Wernham Hogg. Brent is now a travelling rep, selling toiletry and personal hygiene products. Brent uses his pension to take unpaid leave and go on the road to try and take his pop star dream into reality_

Gervais himself had 5 minutes of fame at a young age as a wannabe pop star, in a group called Seona Dancing who failed to make it in the UK but had a hit in the Philippines. He has described similar events happening to him in real life that happens in the film in various interviews. Drawing from life experiences is what made Gervais' comedies work and it's one of the reasons why this film works so well.

The plot has quite an interesting premise, however the middle of the film feels dragged out and repetitive. The film is about 'Life on the Road' yet from venue to venue there is no difference, which makes what happens in each venue less memorable. I would have liked to see Brent have a night out on the town at some of the places he was going to and play some pubs rather than the same generic venue all the time- even if it's just different streets in slough.
Soundtrack

What I think transforms what is a mediocre comedy into the great comedy that the film is, is the soundtrack. The 'Life on the Road' album reached Number 3 on the UK official charts, marking Gervais' highest chart entry ever- even though he's not taking himself seriously this time.

The track listing is as follows:
  1. Ooh La La is an upbeat song which emulates Bruce Springsteen and details an edgy road trip across America. Which isn't just a great karaoke song but is also hilarious when you realise that this is being sung by a character who's never even been to America. This song is a metaphor for his road trip in slough essentially. It's brilliant.
  2. Native American is Brent's attempt at being politically correct and standing up for the Native Americans but with lines such as "soar like an eagle sit like a pelican" this is one of the most tragic on the album.
  3. Lonely Cowboy is one of my favourite songs on the album. Whilst you can't help but find it funny, with lines like "a man amongst the mountains but nothing like brokeback" there's a serious undertone which is deliberate to mock artists such as Johnny Cash whom Brent reminds me of on this track.
  4. Free Love Freeway is a feel good song and was my song of last summer. It's similar to 'ooh la la' in subject (about a road trip) but is a much catchier tune. You may recognise this song from an episode of the office where he sings the song to his staff, only this is the song in its full length glory.
  5. Life on the Road is a short song at only 2 minutes long. It details Brent's life on the road "go to Gloucester, get a Costa" and also highlights Brent's desire to be shown to be a responsible rock star "70 miles per hour and no more".
  6. Slough is a Bowiesque tribute song to Slough, where Brent is from. This song is a crowd pleaser and Brent has performed it live on several TV shows and had a really positive response. The song is pure comic genius. Pathetic and delusional, Brent sings "Don't care what the critics say, like you're soulless and boring and grey" as well as "Slough, my kind of town" it's a terrific song and one of the best on the album.
  7. Thank Fuck It's Friday is a song about enjoying yourself at the end of the week. It's the most relatable of the tunes on the album and is a good 'head banger'.
  8. Lady Gypsy is a funny song about how Brent lost his virginity to a gypsy and pokes fun at the gypsy culture of selling flowers that have just been picked from the ground. There is an accompanying music video for this song which is hilarious. Brent takes himself seriously whilst looking like an absolute fool and pulling the funniest of faces.
  9. Please Don't Make Fun of the Disableds is Brent's attempt at being Band Aid and releasing a single of awareness. However this song is as politically incorrect as it gets. My favourite line of the song, and most offensive, is "whether mental in head or mental in the legs, doesn't mean their sorrow doesn't show" The whole song consists of cringe-worthy lines but I wouldn't have it any other way.
  10. Paris Nights is a song written about Princess Diana and her death. There was a segment in the office featuring this song which he sang to Dawn. It's a simple song but is another hilarious one "you hugged a man with full blown aids to show the world they can't catch it that way" which isn't quite 'Candle in the Wind' but is a tribute to Diana nonetheless- insensitive or otherwise.
  11. Don't Cry It's Christmas was a fun song to play at the dinner table this Christmas... The song is about a terminally ill child whom Brent is singing a song to try and 'comfort' rather unsuccessfully. Brent sings "Though he's got a billion children he's only got one day. You've got slightly less than that so if I were you I'd pray" and more discomforting lines before singing "but don't cry it's christmas, everything is okay"
  12. Spaceman is a short acoustic number about an alien spaceman. The themes remind one of a Bowie song with a twist, it's funny. The song's humour comes from the melodramatic mystery created by the 'spaceman' in question and the reveal is hilarious "A young child he said 'are you christ in a mask?' no I'm just magic but I could see why you'd ask" which has atheist undertones which any Gervais fan would know that it's his signature routine. I would have liked to see more songs mocking religion as I'm sure Ricky could knock out easily and successfully. The song also 'tackles' racism and prejudice...
  13. Equality Street is another of Brent's political protest songs, this time trying to promote equality in a reggae fashion featuring his rapping protegee Dom Johnson. There is accompanying music video to this, done in 2013 for comic relief which is a joy to watch as Brent pulls funny facial expressions. With memorable lyrics including "dwarves aren't babies, you can't just pick em up, they've got rights" it's e-quality song.
  14. Ain't No Trouble is a song about heartbreak sung by Brent's persona of an old rasta. It's another one of of Brent's reggae songs and features Dom Johnson. It's a good song and you'll be singing in a rasta style for days after hearing this one!
  15. Electricity [Feat Chris Martin] is a parody of a Coldplay song and conveniently features Chris Martin of Coldplay whom Ricky knows from the days of Extras. It's a cliched love song which uses the metaphor of electricity and the universe for love.
  16. Cards We're Dealt is the 20th track on the iTunes album. The tracks before it are acoustic and alternative versions of the already existing songs on the album. This is Dom Johnson's solo effort which details being fed up with hanging around Brent and living in his shadow despite being a lot better than him. The deep message of the song is to try and be more than the situation you're put in. In the film it's the song which Johnson uses to try make himself be taken more seriously when in reality the lyrics are just as ridiculous "My time is overdue, like a synagogue roof"

I pre-ordered the album signed. The jewel case of the album isn't very good quality but the inlay features lyrics and photos of Brent so what more could you ask for? Overall the soundtrack is one of the best of any films I've ever seen, giving Spinal Tap a run for its money. Whenever I listen to this album it makes me smile and feel good which is more than can be said for most albums released last year. Despite being a comedy album, there are no filler tracks and the entire album is quality if you're looking for smiles and laughter all round. If you want to listen to some of the songs you can watch them on Ricky's YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/user/plumplard/videos

That should give you a flavour of the type of comedy from the music in this film as well as the sort of tragic humour from the film in general.

Special Features

The film includes many special features which I have listed and reviewed below:
  • Audio Commentary with Director Ricky Gervais is quite an interesting feature. I must admit I wasn't paying a lot of attention as I watched this feature whilst writing the rest of my review. I found it quite insightful into the character of Brent as well as the decisions for some of the shots and how he chose certain places and venues for the shooting of the film as well as giving insight to the development of the project (which started when he met Andy Burrows at a Tom O'Dell concert and decided to put a band together- Foregone Conclusion). It's a good feature, only if you've got the time for it.
  • Making of provides an insight into the world Gervais has tried to create for Brent. It shows how the world has now become all about being a star and Brent is trying to live that dream himself, how he's no longer the big boss and that creating a new work environment for him where he seems lost and out of place was important. All of these artistic decisions worked very well and were very clear in the film. The feature also showed how much of a great time the cast had on set, particularly Ricky who lost it over the smallest things [My favourite being a creaky door] to the other cast's annoyance.
  • Deleted Scenes is a nice special feature to have. However I couldn't tell much of a difference between the deleted scenes and the ones actually in the film which shows either good editing or makes this an unnecessary special feature. I haven't made my mind up on which one it is yet.
  • Songs & Virals are mostly lifted and extended from the film where Brent performs live in front of his 'audience'. They're all worth watching, particularly if you've not got the album. The best part of this feature isn't the the songs though for me, it's the deadpan reaction from the audience who look bored out of their minds. Apparently it took them many shoots before the audience could watch Brent perform without laughing. Great acting.
  • Outtakes are excellent. They consist of scenes where Ricky Gervais just loses it, bursting out with laughter. I would have actually liked some of the scenes to be included in the final cut of the film as some of them would still work tonally but you can't help but laugh when Ricky does. Dianne Morgan and Roisin Conaty also have some funny outtakes too which would have added to the film.

I bought the blu ray from HMV and it came with a small 28 page song booklet which includes the sheet music and lyrics for 3 of the songs included in the film -Freelove Freeway, Don't Cry It's Christmas and Life on the Road. It's only a small paperback booklet on some glossed paper, which isn't very good quality, but it's a little bonus and better than not having anything extra included.
Critical Reception

Life on the Road received mixed reviews upon release:
IMDb 6.3/10
Metacritic 54/100 critics, 6.3/10 audience
Rotten Tomatoes 61% Critic approval, 47% Audience approval

I understand why the film didn't receive very positive reviews. Not only is comedy subjective, but this film in particular is more than just a comedy- its a tragedy so it's not what the audience going into the film was expecting.
  • The Telegraph "Happily, what’s in no short supply is the same mix of uproarious failure and sledgehammer pathos that Brent at his best was always all about" 80/100
  • Time Out "If nothing else, this is a reminder of what a beautifully realised and horribly relatable a character David Brent is.We all know someone a bit like this man"
  • CNN "Ultimately, the scope of this modest exercise seems about right: A nice little movie, about a small man, with big dreams."

I think Robbie Collin, of the telegraph, sums up perfectly what the film is about. The pathos is what really makes the film and understandably not everyone saw it that way:
  • RogerEbert.com "The film is quite repetitive, essentially a very long sketch, and offers little in the way of character development for supporting players"
  • Artshub "In this bloated, tired resurrection, too much of Brent and Gervais doing what they do best - or worst - is never a good thing."

Whilst I enjoyed the film, I completely understand the negative reviews- which make valid points. However anything Gervais says or does, except Derek, makes me laugh so perhaps I'm biased. My rating is 7.2/10
Certificate Advisory
The film is rated 15, the same as the office, for the following reasons:
  • Strong Language is prominent in the film, with an occasional use of the 'N' and 'C' words as well as the use of the 'F' word about 20 times (according to the bbfc, I didn't sit there any count myself). The strong language is used casually with no aggression and in good taste. Most children, from the moment they reach secondary school (11+) are already familiar with strong language so this shouldn't come as a shock to them.
  • Sexual References are made in the film including a song where Brent sings "there's a party in my trousers and everybody is cummin" (which is in the trailer, it's not a spoiler) as well as other sexual references made as jokes. These can be quite uncomfortable to watch and wouldn't be something you'd want your child watching, particularly with you. I watched this with my dad and found it slightly awkward, but not too awkward in compassion to when I watched Frankie Boyle stand up shows on TV with him.
  • Political Incorrectness isn't something you'd expect to see on the back of a DVD case, but with jokes about racial and gender minorities- this may be something you wouldn't want your child to be watching.

I'd recommend this for 14+ for the reasons stated. Any questions about the appropriateness of the film, feel free to pop me a message. I hope this has helped make a decision if buying this for a younger person.
Price and Availability
I received this as a gift for Christmas and at that time the film cost around £15 on Blu ray- which is the format I am reviewing. However since then the prices have changed:
  • HMV £6.99
  • Amazon £9.88
  • Zavvi £6.99 or 2 for £12

The film is cheaper on DVD [£4.99] but definitely worth the money, even on Blu Ray. I don't think the film will reduce much more in price either so get it whilst it's cheap folks!

To Conclude...

Whilst 'Life on the Road' may not be the sharp, witty and memorable film that many people were expecting, David Brent brings something completely different and unexpected to the table. There are certainly moments in the film which I laughed out loud at but many of the moments are more tragic, rooted in sadness and disappointment with the theme of naivety and inconceivable dreams seeming to take more of a forefront.

The quality of the picture on the Blu Ray is crystal clear and enables one to feel a part of Brent's desperate dream, rather than add to the special effects- which is why most people opt for Blu ray. Whilst slightly repetitive in places, you can't help but laugh and smile throughout this film, which oozes with pathos and tragedy. The gags aren't as quotable as you'd expect from someone who once said "Famine doesn't have to be depressing" and the moments aren't as memorable as his motivational dancing or the jelly incident. What the film does offer though is an insight into a man who's developed resilience after having a mental breakdown and question whether reality matters if you keep yourself happy within your own delusions.

"Brent is Back"- not with the bang everyone was expecting, but he's back nonetheless for a film which is funny, tragic and the perfect reunion for one of the most iconic comic characters of all time.

Thanks for reading my review


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Comments on this review

  • Mistybrook published 22/06/2017
    E.
  • Angel19819 published 04/06/2017
    great review
  • Zmugzy published 15/05/2017
    Nicely detailed
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Product Information : David Brent: Life on the Road (Blu-ray)

Manufacturer's product description

Product Details

Classification: 15 years and over

Video Category: Feature Film

DVD Region: Blu-ray

Actor(s): Ricky Gervais, Jo Hartley

Production Year: 2016

Director(s): Ricky Gervais

Main Language: English

EAN: 5030305520564

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Listed on Ciao since: 08/01/2017