It’s safe to say that 2016 is a pretty big year for Ricky Gervais at the cinema. You probably already knew that the comedian was writing, directing and starring in the big-screen return of The Office’s David Brent for Life on The Road (a major project by anyone’s standards), but he also found time to make what is arguably an even bigger production in Special Correspondents – a New York-filmed journalism satire starring Hollywood actor Eric Bana (released on Netflix 29th April).
Bana plays Frank Bonneville, a radio journalist happy to coast through life until a mistake forces him to fake reports from war-torn Ecuador without ever leaving the States. As well as adapting the story (from French original Envoyés Très Spéciaux) and directing, Gervais co-stars as Bana’s fellow conspirator Ian Finch, a henpecked radio engineer who comes up with the plan thanks to his own skills at creating sound effects.
The pair’s scheme leads to some gently funny sequences, with a standout being the pair improvising a report over the phone without the use of any equipment while stranded out on the street. However, this inventiveness eventually runs thin, with some of the humour resorting to slight racial stereotyping (including a wasted America Ferrara as restaurant worker Brigida) and uncomfortable squabbling between the two leads.
Without giving too much away, the story also loses a little of its lo-fi charm towards the end as Bonneville and Finch end up in genuine danger, and while a fun turn from Vera Farmiga as Finch’s selfish wife brings some chuckles, the movie fundamentally isn’t that funny as it lurches to an oddly earnest conclusion.
That’s not to say there’s nothing to recommend this for a quick watch if you have a Netflix account, of course – there are some laugh-out-loud jokes and it’s a reasonably pleasant watch overall. But when it comes down to it, despite a few fun moments these correspondents didn’t end up being that special.
Special Correspondents will be available to stream on Netflix from the 29th April