David Brent: Life on the Road

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Poster Image
Fake comic docu has cursing and sexual references.
  • NR
  • 2017
  • 96 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

A buffoon isn't necessarily heartless. Despite obliviousness, incompetence, and extreme political incorrectness, someone can, at least partially, make dreams come true. Finds differences between being mean-spirited and insensitive.

Positive Role Models & Representations

David Brent is without malice, but he thinks stereotyping and racial jokes are funny. He mocks the disabled, Asians, Native Americans. One lengthy sequence cruelly makes fun of an overweight woman. Those to whom he directs his humor react with horror. Some (mostly male) are cruel and dismissive; others become aware of his innocent motives and respond with empathy toward his misguided antics. Ethnic diversity throughout.

Violence

Comic pratfalls: a man faints while receiving a tattoo; a woman is hit in the face with a "projectile" tee-shirt.

Sex

No sexual activity or nudity. Many sexual references are delivered by the clueless hero, who finds them hilarious. Breast jokes; penis jokes; risque musical lyrics; jokes about sexual assault, the LBGT community, and numerous sexual acts.  

Language

Frequent use of profanity, sexual references, insults, and slurs. "F--k," "s--t," "piss off," "bitch," "tear you a new one," "screw you," "pr--k," "boobs," "dog s--t," "there's a party in my trousers" "getting off," "lezzer," and the "N" word.
 

Consumerism

Visuals or mention of: NME Magazine, Toblerone, Costa coffee, Tesco, Prozac.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Alcohol consumption throughout; in one scene, hero gets very drunk. Mention of marijuana and Prozac.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that in David Brent: Life on the RoadRicky Gervais has brought back the popular character he created in the original British mockumentary series, The Office (2001). In that show, "David Brent" was a middle-manager boss at a branch office of Wernham-Hogg (a paper merchant), whose obnoxious, self-important, delusional behavior masked a clueless, insecure man who just wanted to be liked and hoped against hope to be respected. In this Netflix comedy/musical, David Brent -- resplendent in obliviousness, tacky jokes, and self-importance -- is back. The "documentary crew" is back as well, just in time to follow Brent on a leave of absence as he launches his life-long dream: He's going to be a rock star. The film is filled with lots of profanity and slurs (i.e., "f--k," "s--t," "piss off," "the N" word," "lezzer"), alcohol use, mocking of ethnic groups, women, and minorities, as well as sexual jokes, references, and innuendo. Suitable only for mature teens and up.

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What's the story?

As DAVID BRENT: LIFE ON THE ROAD opens, it has been several years since David Brent (Ricky Gervais) left Wernham-Hogg, the paper company in which his role as "boss" was a study in obnoxiousness. Unaware that he's almost universally ridiculed, David continues to besiege his coworkers at Lava-Chem (a cleaning products company) with embarrassing jokes, relentless bravado, and a most annoying chortle. He's a sales rep now, without authority, but still the same clueless bloke. And, the same faux documentary film company who followed him at Wernham-Hogg is back again, hanging onto his every word. The film crew is on board because David is taking a leave of absence, hoping to live his Rock Star dream as a solo performer and composer. In a series of dreary saloons, Brent launches a three-week, low-end tour with a band of professionals who can't believe their eyes and ears. Brent is willing to spend his entire savings on salaries, equipment, hotels, wardrobe, and public relations to fund his big chance. But even with the talented musicians, including Dom Johnson (Ben Bailey Smith aka "Doc Brown") as a young rapper along for the ride, Brent's chances get dimmer with every performance.

Is it any good?

Fans of David Brent, and there are many, will happily go along for this preposterous ride; new viewers will have to catch up with Brent's gaffes, embarrassing behavior, and misguided humor. Some may not find David Brent: Life on the Road funny. Or, it may just take a while to "get" the humor. For example, Brent's not malicious when he mocks women and minorities (Chinese, Native American, the disabled); in his distorted worldview, he's simply trying to shine a sympathetic light on them. The UK's The Office had a limited run, but "David Brent" seems to have an unlimited lifespan. In the United States, the insufferable character was reborn in a successful eight-year NBC series, starring Steve Carrell as Michael Scott (Brent's American equivalent), and a host of other actors whose careers were launched by the show. This new adventure includes a lot of profanity, sexual banter, and tasteless insult humor, but it's funny, as long as it doesn't wear you out. No kids.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about bringing a crowd-pleasing television headliner to life in a full-length movie. What marketing advantages does such a film have over original stories with no recognizable back story or characters? If you were already a fan of David Brent's before you saw David Brent: Life on the Road, do you think it was a successful transition? Why or why not?

  • Think about the challenges of trying to make ethnic stereotyping and sexism funny. Do you think David Brent is a true racist and/or sexist, or is he simply pathetic as he tries to fit in and get laughs? How do the filmmakers let the audience know that his behavior is not to be acceptable or admired, but to be viewed as offensive? 

  • How did David Brent's music help establish this unique character? What were his motives for writing about Native Americans and the disabled? As expected, the songs are complete duds. Do you think the David Brent, as Gervais plays him, could ever understand what he has done? 

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