David Brent: Life on the Road (15)

Ricky Gervais as David Brent. Photo: submitted

Ricky Gervais as David Brent. Photo: submitted - Credit: Archant

Our pleasure is Ricky Gervais' self-inflicted pain in this toe-curling faux documentary comedy that catches up with the politically incorrect title character as he embarks on a quest for music success with his band, Foregone Conclusion.

Life and art are blurred in Gervais' script, which plays like a cover version of his award-winning TV series The Office, replete with a wince-inducing scene of dad dancing that is supposed to attract the fairer sex.

'I'm no lothario, but he is the worst person around women I have ever seen,' confesses a pitying band mate.

Without The Office co-writer Stephen Merchant to rein in his self-indulgence behind the camera, Gervais puts his middle-aged misfit centre stage for every excruciating set piece, including a heartfelt and hilariously misguided rendition of Please Don't Make Fun Of The Disableds.

Consequently, some of the supporting players are thinly sketched and a gossamer thin romantic subplot is almost surplus to requirements.

Music reunions are always big business, so it's understandable that Gervais would want to revisit past glories here and resurrect a dithering everyman, whose lack of graces and self-awareness repeatedly cuts to the bone.

It has been 12 years since David Brent (Gervais) awkwardly ruled the roost at the Slough branch of Wernham Hogg Paper Company. He's now a travelling salesman at Lavichem, peddling sanitary products. He takes unpaid leave to pursue his dream of music stardom.

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'The ghost of Alexander O'Neal visited me one night and said, 'You have got what it takes',' explains Brent.

A rapper called Dom Johnson (Ben Bailey Smith aka Doc Brown) joins Foregone Conclusion to bolster the band's yoof appeal as the mutinous and motley crew embarks on a tour.

The film is peppered with uproarious one-liners and moments of skin-crawling brilliance that confirm Gervais as a master of unflattering observation. Music performances include a reprise of the 2013 Comic Relief song, Equality Street.

The mockumentary conceit isn't consistent and the sentimentality of the band's final performance feels contrived, but it's nice to have some sweetness to cut through the film's acidic humour.

*** (Three stars)

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