I’m a big fan of Ricky Gervais. Whether it’s The Office – both the UK and US versions – Extras, Derek, his stand-up, his movies or his music – as David Brent, obviously – the actor and comedian is a great talent who, regardless of whether you love or hate him, is responsible for changing the face of comedy as we know it.
His latest film, Special Correspondents – a collaboration with Netflix and remake of the 2009 French film, Envoyés Très Spéciaux – is a comedy in which the laughs can be charted in peaks and troughs. Gervais plays Ian Finch, a kind hearted sound technician who has to go into hiding with the bold and brash radio presenter, Frank Bonneville, after losing their plane tickets to a war-torn Ecuador.
Rather than admit their mistake, the pair take refuge in an attic bedroom situated across the road from their radio station. There, they falsify news reports create rumours in the hope they won’t be found out. However, things quickly escalate and the two are forced to fake their own kidnapping, creating a nationwide campaign to bring back these American ‘heroes’.
If you’re going to make a film or television series where the characters are confined to talking in rooms, the script needs to be flawless – something Gervais knows all about. This script is far from flawless, however, with most of the jokes falling so flat that it feels like David Brent himself is making them.
The obviously low-budget, something which is addressed in the film’s final moments, is partly to blame for much of the film’s story being told from an attic bedroom. Even when the characters do finally leave for Ecuador, there’s an unshakeable feeling that what we’re seeing is actually a backlot on a film studio.
The lack of cinematic visuals and consistent laughs make for some uncomfortable and self-conscious viewing. The film’s excellent cast – Gervais is as great as usual, but it’s Vera Farmiga who steals the show – do the best they can with the hindrances of a weak script, but not even they can save it completely.
It’s a shame, because there are flashes of something brilliant in there somewhere. The concept is a solid one and when the film takes aim at satirising journalistic integrity or America’s penchant for flag waving, it is Gervais at his most brilliant.
There’s nothing particularly cruel or offensive about Special Correspondents, and that in itself is part of its problem. It seems content in just treading along at its own pace, quite easily passing the time and being nothing other than perfectly passable if there’s nothing better to watch. This feels like Ricky Gervais playing it safe and when you compare this to his back catalogue, you can’t help but have expected much more from this.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.com