It sounded like a terrible idea. Thirteen years after bowing out in style with an incredibly humorous and poignant Christmas special Ricky Gervais announced plans to bring The Office out of retirement and once again cheap suit up as middle manager David Brent.

Such was his faith in the arrogantly clueless Brent that this time the show wouldn't be a show at all. Instead it would clock on as a full-blown movie, with all the accompanying weight and expectation that a cinema release brings.

Considering the series was so massive, so influential and so bloody funny and that Gervais' recent output has been, well, not, a return to the industrial estate of Slough seemed at best a bad move, at worst a legacy tarnishing embarrassment. That he was also quick to talk it down as a mere spin-off and not a continuation of the main brand also didn't help instil confidence in the project.

Then the trailer dropped online and left you squirming in your seat. It was awkward and full of cringe. It was, in fact, near unbearable. But in the best way possible.


If you didn't want to immediately stop watching it and burn your computer at Brent's elongated and creepingly awful pronunciation of the word "juice" then you're made of stronger stuff than I am.

It was genuinely funny and made me think that maybe this movie wasn't such a damn foolhardy move after all. The cringe showed Gervais still had it, even if the depicted circumstances showed Brent still did not. Maybe, just maybe, the guy did know what he was doing.

This all conspired to give me fairly high hopes going into Special Correspondents.

This feature film was written and directed by Gervais, who also took a lead role, making it almost a practice run for his Office flick. The main difference being a whole lot less pressure.

Radio newsmen Eric Bana (left) and Ricky Gervais get to Ecuador, and involved in gang activity, in the end. Photo / Netfilx
Radio newsmen Eric Bana (left) and Ricky Gervais get to Ecuador, and involved in gang activity, in the end. Photo / Netfilx

Unlike the upcoming David Brent: Life on the Road audiences weren't expected to pay for this one. As a Netflix exclusive the movie simply popped up on the service, ready to watch last Friday.

Starring alongside the ever reliable Eric Bana, the pair play a radio news team who get assigned the job of covering a burgeoning rebel coup in Ecuador. Bana plays smug rule breaker and "cool guy" celeb broadcaster Frank Bonneville, while Gervais stretches himself not at all as sound technician Ian Finch, a nerd with a heart of gold who yearns to "do something exceptional" but is too fearful.

No prizes for guessing how this plays out ...

"Don't lose your passport," the station receptionist tells Finch, handing over the documents for both himself and Bonneville.

"Why would I lose them?" he sneers before promptly throwing them away into a passing garbage truck.

This bumbling mishap leaves the pair unable to travel. With Bonneville on his final warning and Finch not wanting his incompetence to come to light the pair decide to stage fake broadcasts from the restaurant across the road from the station. Things begin to get out of hand when other media start adding legitimacy to their concocted tales by confirming the fanciful details of their ridiculous reports, including the existence of a shadowy but thoroughly fictitious rebel leader. It all culminates with the pair actually smuggling themselves into Ecuador and getting kidnapped by a gang not unlike the one they invented back in the restaurant.

It's predictable, pedestrian and almost insultingly obvious. Mostly it's just not very good.


Against this backdrop Finch's unloving and unfaithful wife is using his supposed misfortune in Ecuador to launch her music career while a female colleague who shares his interest in comics and video games yearns for his safe return.

Again, no prizes for guessing how this plays out ...

Despite the obviousness of the plot points it all sounds like ripe material for Gervais' stinging satire and scathing commentary on the state of news broadcasting and our obsessive celebrity culture.

So it's a pity Gervais doesn't really have anything to say about any of that. Instead he aims for an old-school, fluffy, comedy of escalating errors type vibe. Even though it features fluffy scenes of murderous shootouts and rampant drug use.

All of which is fair enough. Or would be if it was funny. There's an odd chuckle here and there but overall it's disappointing.

It's predictable, pedestrian and almost insultingly obvious. Mostly it's just not very good.

Let me put it this way, as a moviemaker Ricky Gervais makes for a great Golden Globes host.