Many people have waited 15 years for the return of David Brent, or 12 years if you count his brief return for Comic Relief. Ricky Gervais created the first major mockumentary comedy that launched many imitations around the world, including the successful US version, and paved the way for a new style of comedy.
Gervais has since launched a number of other comedy projects such as 'Derek', the 'Idiot Abroad' series and a handful of other ventures in both Europe and America, yet David Brent is the original and best in my eyes - totally British humour for the British market.
Set in around the English county of Berkshire, we are treated to a simple plot of Brent leaving his mundane 9-5 "life on the road" to play a number of low-key gigs with his reluctant band in an attempt to hit a record deal. But from the off we know it's not going to go that way, and that's half the fun - seeing things constantly play out differently to what Brent expects and his reactions to them.
The key Gervais qualities are here - laughing with Brent and at him, but then feeling sorry for him and his ambition. We feel bad for laughing at him one minute later when we see glimpses of ourselves in his lifestyle; it's mundane and driven by routine, and all he wants is to be liked and be someone successful. How many times have we all had that dream, but how many have had the courage to try and succeed in it? At the end of the film, we at least have a respect for Brent for doing just that.
However for a format that was groundbreaking in 2000, here in 2016 after every genre of this comedy has used the glances to camera, awkward silences, "fly on the wall" setting, you can't help feel the novelty has worn off and all the supporting stars grew up watching 'The Office' and want to replicate that style for this essential 90min special.
While a cast of near unknowns do their roles as basic as you'd expect for a "documentary" feel, there are too many glimpses to camera and long silences to make this feel new. And while the comedy comes mostly from Gervais, you miss the chemistry forged with previous co-stars like Martin Freeman, Mackenzie Crook and Lucy Davis. They are missed here, and their substitutes don't have enough time to gel with you. Except one, actress Jo Hartley, who provides many of the "aww" moments and who brings out the real David Brent more than the cameras do.
And the comedy, in a nutshell, continues to be cringe inducing, awkward and pushing the PC line as much as Gervais can using Brent as a man who thinks he understands society, but often puts his foot in it more times than he'd like. We have mild racism, sexism and gags about fat people but all delivered by a man who thinks he's being just and understanding, when really he's just...well...cringe worthy, as a good David Brent must be. There are a number of gags from his older, pre-Office days which fans may notice too.
While the story starts to feel like a number of extended comedic sketches at each gig, there is a heart-warming and tender drive to Brent that Gervais plays out well, and has you changing your view on things as the film progresses and really get behind his story. The stand-out comedy moments for me are the tattoo parlor and the hotel mini-bar. And if the end feels a little rushed, it may well be, as things fall into place a little too quickly, but still tugs your heartstrings as Gervais knows what makes even the most embarrassing people human.
Fans of Gervais and his comedy will love this. While it's not as fresh or witty as 'The Office', it more than delivers a nice resolution to the story of David Brent as much as you'd like 15 years on. It's very British in style and look, and nice to have Gervais returning to his iconic comedy character who will always be a winner in my eyes. And the songs ain't half bad either!