• Following Us

  • Categories

  • Check out the Archives

  • Awards & Nominations

Non-Review Review: David Brent – Life on the Road

Perhaps David Brent: Life on the Road represents the edge case for the current wave of nineties nostalgia.

The Office premiered in July 2001. It was the first year of the twenty-first century, but spiritually near the end of what might be termed “the long nineties.” The mockumentary sit-com was something of a novelty at the time, building upon the rich history and legacy of British comedy personalities like Alan Partridge, with Ricky Gervais introducing the character of David Brent. Gervais did not invent cringe-comedy, but he certainly pushed it forward. Gervais’ work in The Office and Extras would inspire a whole generation of awkward social comedy.

He's got a t-shirt gun and he's not afraid to use it.

He’s got a t-shirt gun and he’s not afraid to use it.

David Brent is an interesting beast. On the one hand, it seems like a nostalgic return to familiar ground for a comedian who has long evolved past this persona. Barring a brief reprisal of the role for Red Nose Day in March 2013, Gervais retired the role of David Brent more than a decade ago. In some respects, David Brent finds the comedian retreading old ground that had been ceded to a generation of imitators and innovators years earlier. Gervais slips effortless back into the role, but there is a sense that the world has changed around him.

Despite Gervais’ best efforts, there is an awkwardness to David Brent. It is hard to tell whether Gervais has soften in the intervening years or whether the world has gotten harder, but David Brent feels trapped between two extremes. The feature film adaptation feels at once too mean-spirited and too kind-hearted towards its protagonist, offering a version of the character who is as awkward and offensive as he has even been while constructing a film that coddles the obnoxious former manager. The result is a film that feels off-balance, an old standard played out of tune.

Get Brent.

Get Brent.

Continue reading

Non-Review Review: Alan Partridge – Alpha Papa

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa successfully brings the BBC icon to the big screen. He’s come a long way from a sports desk persona on a BBC4 parody radio show, and modern British comedy owes a lot to Coogan’s creation. Partridge has been around for over twenty years at this point, in many ways becoming more recognisable than Steve Coogan himself. It’s surprising that it’s taken this long to shepherd Partridge to the big screen.

Partridge is the king of what might be termed “cringe comedy”, and is a clear forbearer of Ricky Gervais’ David Brent. As such, it’s possible to feel that Partridge is a little dated. Certainly, there are times when Alpha Papa plays out like it could be an extended holiday special featuring North Norfolk’s most famous radio DJ. To be fair, that’s not a bad thing. Coogan is on fine form here, the comedy is broad and the wit is quick enough that there’s never a dull moment.

It’s a giant-sized helping of the comedy character, one which stays true to his roots even if it does occasionally feel like it over-simplifies him a bit.

On the air, and on the line...

On the air, and on the line…

Continue reading