Special Correspondents (2016)

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This Netflix special outing from creator Ricky Gervais is pretty darn cringey and not because in the usual way of his TV writing perfectly setting up those awkward yet hilarious moments, no this comedy film is just hitting the cringe factor because it doesn’t strike satire, comic brilliance or sharp writing.

Frank Bonneville (Eric Bana) is a smooth talking radio show presenter, but his boss doesn’t think he’s man enough to deal with the harder topics. Frank is tasked with reporting from Ecuador about a new war and the plight of the people, he ends up encouraging sound technician Ian Finch (Ricky Gervais) to go with him but a mishap means they can’t get out of America and so they fake their reports from an upstairs spare room that happens to be opposite the news station building.

The premise sounds enticing enough and in fact I made sure to watch it on the day of its release to see if Gervais had pulled off a cool comedy bundle but the premise is all that’s enticing let me tell you. For the first thirty minutes the plot trickles along ticking all the expected screenwriting boxes that it feels as far removed from any of Gervais’ smart observations about the world and people. There is no true attempt at satire, the whole Ecuador issue and war, the faking of news is totally missed as we hear lame lines about Finch crapping himself.

It’s written and directed by the Reading born comedian/actor and I can safely say that it’s his stinkiest work yet. It just doesn’t look or sound smart or different which is a shame because as mentioned it has a great premise to work from. Based from a 2009 French film Gervais manages to include his usual buffoon nature and laugh and throws in a skewed romantic plot that is so obvious from the get go.

What I will say is that I did sit forward and like the movie a little more when the two journalists finally record a visual tape. They’re holed up and utilise on some cafe owners to play pretend kidnappers which leads to a funny back and forth between the four people in the room. Also, Gervais and his love for music and writing songs comes into an admittedly positive scene as Finch’s wife sings a song instead of caring that her husband is missing. These and the cafe owners generally funny confusions are the only great parts of the British/Canadian/American production that Netflix may wish to see further down the scrolling list of endless titles sooner rather than later.

Ricky Gervais is his usual self, no accents, no strong emotions. Just bumbling and pathetic as he usually plays so at least he’s typecast himself and plays that spineless man well. Eric Bana is the hunky guy but plays that arrogant sort of loner well, trying to smooze like a celebrity but really Bana doesn’t have much to play with as it’s a flatter than flat character. Vera Farmiga plays Gervais’ mean wife with a shrewd detail, she’s distant and rude and steals the film along with America Ferrera. Poor Kelly Macdonald is meek and two-dimensional as the clearly set up love interest for Ian and that’s all she’s there for.

There’s two or three good moments but any hope of satire or grand ideas are quickly kicked to the wayside to leave us with a disappointing and lukewarm movie.

4.5/10

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