Special Correspondents is Gervais’ adaptation of a 2009 French comedy about two journalists who were sent to Ecuador to cover a story on the war, but missed their flight resulting in some pretty ‘hilarious’ consequences. Okay, I’ve made this sound like a Harold and Kumar movie, which is doing the film a slight injustice, but only slight.
The Netflix comedy-satire is Ricky Gervais’ latest attempt to write, direct and star in a film, with some pretty familiar, underwhelming results. Like in his hit comedy series, Extras, Gervais uses personal aggravation to mock and highlight his issues with life in the modern day, but it doesn’t seem to have us laughing as much on the big screen.
This time it was journalism and fame at the heart of his message, poking fun at the digital era journalism finds itself in through dull gags. The premise of the story is big shot, local radio broadcaster, Frank (Eric Bana), idolised by sound man and side kick, Ian Finch (Ricky Gervais) miss their flight to Ecuador and find themselves hiding in the attic of a restaurant in New York, rather than confessing to their boss what has happened.
The jokes are often created around the stupidity and dim witted nature of the restaurant owners, while Gervais tries his best to play the geeky, timid right hand man to Bana’s larger than life character.
The pair are frequently asked to do live broadcasts, which are assumed to be from Ecuador, but it becomes too much for the duo to keep faking, so they fake a kidnapping instead. Gervais’ wife, who incidentally slept with Bana’s character the week before the ‘kidnapping’, sees this as an opportunity to gain money and fame by releasing a charity single to raise money for their ransom.
The actual story has promise, it just wasn’t well executed. Gervais doesn’t do the underdog nerd well, he thrives on obvious and awkward situations. Bana’s character isn’t the bad guy he’s supposed to be, but most disappointingly Gervais’ typical situational humour isn’t in this movie at all really.
He toyed with it early in the film, when Gervais brings his high maintenance wife (Vera Farmiga) to a work party over an hour early. His wife complains bitterly while Gervais awkwardly makes small talk with the man on the door to try and play down the situation.
But these moments were few and far between. Gervais and Bana seem to have struck a genuine friendship off screen, but that chemistry didn’t translate on it. The film, like all of Gervais’ other movies, promises so much, but ultimately lacks the humour that made him a star in the first place.