David Brent Movie – Can it possibly work?

Posted on 13 August 2014
By George Anthony Heron
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It was announced last week that Ricky Gervais is resurrecting his primary cash cow, David Brent from The Office, this time in movie form. It’ll be a Spinal Tap-style, fly-on-the-wall documentary, a continuation and culmination of the musical transformation that Gervais has imposed upon the character.

I have to be honest with you and tell you from the start that I haven’t watched much of The Office. The most memorable part of it for me is when he does that funny dance whilst singing Tina Turner’s Disco Inferno a-capella. Apart from that, the vacuousness awkwardness was too much for me. I also have a non-conformist slant that makes me avoid like a plague anything that is getting raved about in the mainstream. So why am I bothering to write this article? You’ve gotta push yourself to do something you wouldn’t usually do sometimes, haven’t you? To broaden your horizons and all that.

Credit to Gervais, he has moved on from his initial success of The Office and has managed to keep himself relevant within the comedy industry while simultaneously diversifying his brand across different mediums. There’s Extras, his podcast, multiple successful attempts at stand-up, Life’s Too Short, An Idiot Abroad and more recently Derek. He’s even made a book for children, Flanimals. Everything he touches makes money. Derek’s nominated for an Emmy, which shows his knack for writing likeable characters and amusing situations has not waned in the last 13 years of success.

Bearing in mind this most recent Derekian success, does Gervais really need to go back and rekindle past glories? He certainly doesn’t need to do it for the money. Parallels can be drawn with Steve Coogan and his alter-ego Alan Partridge. As the great Vic Reeves would say, “He wouldn’t let it lie.” He couldn’t let it lie, Partridge is as much Coogan as Gervais is Brent. Both of them don’t need to do much in the way of impersonations to bring them to life. They are a caricatured versions of themselves. It’s like a leather jacket that feels so good to wear that you keep putting it back on.

My built-in comedy radar would like to point out at this point that I am not for one second saying that David Brent is anywhere near as well-realised a character as Alan Partridge. Partridge is so well honed to perfection that you can read his autobiography, “I, Partridge”, and easily imagine the real Alan having written this about his life and laughing all the way through it.

Another parallel with Coogan is that Gervais can’t seem to write anything on his own. Coogan has Armando Ianucci, Gervais has Stephen Merchant. IMDB doesn’t currently list Merchant with a credit on the “Untitled David Brent Movie” but I will eat my imaginary hat if he doesn’t get involved. It is very possible that if Gervais goes it alone on this one that it could end up being an unmitigated disaster. He can let his ego get the better of him sometimes, especially in his standup. I could have sworn one of his jokes sounded like he was just saying, “Me Me Me. Me, Me Me Me Me Me Me.Me.” Meh.

The plot lends itself to lots of potential for the awkward comedy that the Brent character revels in. It also reminds me of one of the best films of the year so far, Frank. Frank was not fly-on-the-wall but it did give you a tremendous insight to the mediocre musician trying to make it big without the talent to do so. Frank had a quirkiness and surreality that gives it the edge of most music-related films. I can’t see Gervais’ micro-manager from hell having the same impact as the plastic-headed avant-garde genius who makes a song about a solitary tuft on a carpet so hilarious yet endearing.

On the flip-side, let’s have a look at recent British Comedy films that have been released in the last few years which have been based on TV characters: The Keith Lemmon Movie, The Harry Hill Movie, Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie. A stinker one and all. Even The Inbetweeners movie was vastly overrated. Surely Brent’s flick won’t be as bad as these.

I can’t guarantee that it’ll hit the six-laugh Mark Kermode quotient that makes for a good comedy but I’d rather give The Office a proper chance than have to endure any of that tosh.