Special Correspondents

'Special Correspondents' movie poster

Release: Friday, April 29, 2016 (Netflix)

[Netflix]

Written by: Ricky Gervais

Directed by: Ricky Gervais 

I’m suspicious of any movie that literally ends with the line “This is like the end of a movie.” While exemplary of the meta flavor of comedy that’s been en vogue since at least the mid-2000s, that line is also symptomatic of a bigger issue: the movie it’s stuck in is atrocious.

Sure, that’s pretty brutal. But what’s more brutal is the thought that, should I hold my tongue, I might just bite it off and swallow. How is Ricky Gervais’ most recent palavering, the media-jabbing comedy Special Correspondents, this unfunny? Disregard the pedigree of pure comedy behind the camera and the script, how can a movie be this devoid of logic, coherence, entertainment value and, oh yeah did I mention logic? One of the ways you can get there I suppose is by concocting the following nonsense:

A radio journalist (Eric Bana) and his technician (Gervais) fake their coverage of a war erupting in Ecuador by hiding in the loft of a restaurant adjacent to the very station they work at in Manhattan. They can see through concealed windows they’re even on the same floor as their offices. This is as opposed to actually traveling abroad to do their jobs. Are they just feckless, ethically challenged professionals looking for a fancy way to get fired? Gervais doesn’t think that big. No, his character just accidentally throws their passports away. Proving at the very least they are unburdened by the weight of journalistic integrity and basic human morality, the pair feign a serious news report that ultimately culminates in a nationwide fundraising effort in the name of the two radio guys who went suddenly missing behind borders.

Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross claims — and bear with me here for a second — that most people, as they go through the grieving process, deny first and will eventually come to accept later. But in trying to process the immense pile of fuckery that has been put before me, I think the mission is far more do-able if we work backwards through the Five Stages. First, let’s address how inane a concept Special Correspondents is working with. The absurdity and lack of forethought, the sheer number of loopholes and contrivances that are needed to make the story work is difficult to accept, even by Gervaisian standards. So difficult, in fact, it’s impossible. The constant provocation of the suspension of disbelief is alarmingly thin cover for a director who doesn’t know how to tell a story.

Moving on past acceptance — which likely won’t be reached but let’s go with this anyway — we arrive at depression. This is actually dually appropriate given Gervais’ character is somewhat of a depressed mope whose marriage to the pretty awful Eleanor (Vera Farmiga) is a sham, and it’s depressing how bad Bana is in his role. Overacting as though his first day on the job, Bana’s Frank is either yelling incoherently at Gervais’ bumbling, nervous Ian or he’s generally being an ass just to be an ass. There’s a modicum of refreshment in watching the roles reverse, as Gervais goes nice and his co-star hams it up like John Ratzenberger in Toy Story. Most depressing of all, the movie turns Farmiga, a highly likable actress, into a gold-digging shrew of a woman absolutely devoid of redeeming qualities.

Bargaining. What can we bargain with here, then? I’ll concede that Special Correspondents strikes the right tone for what Gervais is going for: it’s as silly as the plot is ridiculous. Supporting turns from America Ferrara and Raúl Castillo as a pair of hospitable Latino immigrants help perpetuate the willy-nilly, carefree zippity-doo-dah. How do these two exactly expect this all to work out — like it did for Orson Welles? Will they become the heroes of their own fiction? I’m also willing to bargain with folks who think I’m dwelling too much on logical cohesion. Fair enough, I probably am. After all, it’s just comedy.

The talent that’s theoretically on display is enough to make a reasonable person who doesn’t throw away passports by mistake assume Special Correspondents delivers the laughs in spades. Barring some amusing exchanges between the two — basically whenever Ian does something Frank doesn’t like — the film is a poor effort on that front as well.  If you’re seeking Gervais’ raging Britishness (or that signature laugh) you’ll be left out in the cold. That’s enough to make me angry, and one step closer to fully cycling through this very difficult, very unusual grieving process. Someone help, because I know what comes next.

There’s some sort of socio-political commentary pasted in here about how we, the blind sheep of the American populace, form these relationships with the media and hang on their every word. Overreaction is an epidemic in a plugged-in society and David Fincher was brilliantly attuned to that in his recent Gone Girl adaptation. Of course it wasn’t really funny then, nor is it in other cinematic treatments of these curious societal habits of ours. But Gervais is simply not making any accurate statement about society, about the way media deals with hot button topics like securing American troops and journalists in peril. His is not a movie made to wake you up but rather to dumb you down. To not be aware of its massively underachieving status is to be in a true state of denial.

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Recommendation: Painfully inadequate on all fronts, the only real laughs inspired by the misguided, nonsensical plot and awkward direction, Special Correspondents suggests that perhaps the mouthy Brit should apply his talents to other areas — like in resurrecting David Brent. Why not stick with acting? I’m hoping there’s more to him that I can discover beyond his Office personality, because I like the guy and want to get the taste of this one out of my mouth as soon as possible.

Rated: NR

Running Time: 100 mins.

Quoted: “It’s quiet. Too quiet. In the sky, combat helicopters stop. An explosion rings out. My own technician has another near-miss. A bullet flies *inches* above his head. Lucky for him he’s so short, or he’d most certainly be dead by now. This is Frank Bonneville, Q63.5 News.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed, written consent of the blog owner is prohibited. 

Photo credits: http://www.imdb.com

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17 thoughts on “Special Correspondents

  1. Wow, brutal man. I actually kinda liked this, not in a massive way but I enjoyed it and had a few laughs. Gervais is definitely better at the sort of comedy that The Office and Extras had though, that’s for sure. IMO I think him not teaming up with Steve Merchant has hurt him, all his best stuff had Merchant as co-writer and director.

    I wonder what the new David Brent movie will be like?

    • this was without a doubt one of the worst fucking things I have seen this year and I would give anything to not see it even the once. Ricky Gervais just lost a lot of credibility for me doing this utter crap. I don’t even think his David Brent stunt is going to work. That character was only tolerable in tiny doses when he had all his office drones to interact with and harass. Taking him on the road and away from the office, in my opinion, is a mistake and just a gimmick to try to cash back in on Gervais’ previous success now that the American The Office is over. I think it’s lame but that’s me.

      • Nah I think you are spot on with the David Brent thing. And I just looked on imdb….. and there is no Steven Merchant. I don’t know if they had a falling out or something, but Merchant wasn’t involved with Derek, which I kinda liked it a dumb way, much like this movie really, but it was -nothing- compared to Extras, which I think is better than the office. And Life’s Too Short is excellent too – ALL of those were with Merchant.

        The Brent stunt will fail miserably, I couldn’t agree with you more man. I’m starting to dislike the guy as the days go by. It’s not as apparent in his stand-up, all of which I’ve seen many times, but his attiude is veeeery condescding, and I’ve listened to all the old recordings they did with Karl Pilkington waaay back and FUCK ME, Gervais comes off as such an elitist fuck, it is unbelievable. And this was back in 2003! I can’t imagine the size of the guy’s ego now.

        Sorry for the essay there but while we disagree on this movie, we seem to definetely agree on what will happen with this Brent spinoff thing. You are spot on, that character is only tolerable in small doses. God, a whole movie? It will be headache inducing!

    • Yeah it pretty much does buddy. I like Gervais but this is a pretty dire effort. I also don’t think he’s onto solid ground with this whole ‘David Brent: Life on the Road’ bullshit. How’s that supposed to work outside of The Office?

  2. Nothing about this film interested me or piqued my interest to go out and see it, and it seems that I was correct. I will certainly be skipping this!

    • Ugh. This was a bad one. Sadly, Bana isn’t good and the idea behind the whole thing was just so, so poorly thought out it really became the funniest thing about this. 😦 I like Gervais but just based on this, I think he should stick to acting. (At least, until he comes up with a great comedy of course. Then we are all going to be singing a different tune. That’s how this biz goes. 😉 )

  3. Ewww. I think I will stay a long ways away from this one. And it is such a shame for Bana. I really like the guy but it seems that good chunky roles don’t come his way.

    • Yeah it is a shame man. I like the guy plenty and have a lot of time for Gervais as well (maybe slightly less than Bana of course, Gervais is better in smaller doses 😉 ), but Special Correspondents is so bad it is a farce. Honestly one of the worst things I have checked out all this year and apparently one of the least popular. This review has failed to really generate much in the way of traffic, so your stopting in here is greatly appreciated!

  4. Nice review man. I’m one of Gervais’ biggest fans and I was very disappointed by this movie. Between this and Derek, Gervais is really ditching the edge and cringe comedy that made him so great in the first place. Still, I have high hopes for his David Brent movie later this year.

    • If the unpopularity of my post is any indication, Special Correspondents is both lame and skipped over by the majority of the Netflix-viewing public. I wasn’t sure just how it was going to do but I wasn’t expecting virtually no response to it lol. Guess that is how it goes sometimes. Still, can’t say it’s much of a shame. You and I both know what kind of movie they are all missing. 😉

  5. Hi Tom! I was initially intrigued by this because of Eric Bana’s involvement, who I knew was a stand up comic before becoming an actor. But man, reading your review (and others), it doesn’t sound worth my time. I heard that David Brent series was hilarious though, so maybe I’ll watch that instead.

    • Hey what’s up Ruth! I didn’t know about Bana’s background at all. That’s interesting, I can’t picture him at all as a stand-up comic but I do like the guy! I guess I’ve always seen him as someone who plays it straight, not an everyman per se but someone who is very relatable but remaining serious. I’d love to see him actually be funny, because he sadly is not in this. Special Correspondents is unfortunately a terrible movie and it pains me to say that because I like the both of them. Ricky Gervais as David Brent — wasn’t that his character in the British Office? Are they bringing that back?

      • I’ve never actually seen his stand-up gig, but yeah he’s said that in interviews and on IMDb 🙂 Yeah I see him as a serious actor too but he could be funny in interviews so I could see him being a good comedian.

        Yeah I think there’s a new series David Brent: Life on the Road where he now fancies himself as a rockstar on the road.

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