Special Correspondents (2016)
Starring: Ricky Gervais, Eric Bana, America Ferrera, Kelly Macdonald, Kevin Pollak
Directed by: Ricky Gervais
Written by: Ricky Gervais
Rating: TV-MA Running Time: 1 hr. 40 min
When we talk about Ricky Gervais, it’s important (I think) to talk about his strengths and weaknesses as a writer. As a student of human nature and the world, Gervais is superb, and his skillful observations have produced some great stage and TV performances. His humor is dark, sly and inventive, and he shines in shorter productions where his observations can be the focus of his comedy.
On the other hand, Special Correspondents is a prime example (as was The Invention of Lying) of his inability to build a strong narrative over the length of a feature film. His characters are one note and very simplistic. A bland collection of caricatures inserted into his stories to be nothing more than sounding boards for his jokes.
I loved the ideas discussed in Special Correspondents, but the overall execution lacked polish. Like it escaped Ricky’s head too soon before being properly vetted to make sure all the pieces of the movie puzzle were available before assembly. This resulted in some lazy observations about mainstream news media, and a fame hungry public, and ultimately exposes Gervais’ limitations as an auteur.
It also didn’t help that Gervais chose to cast himself as the geeky radio technician with a heart of gold. His character was at the center of this story with the most skin in the game, yet he was played like supporting comic relief to Eric Bana’s superstar reporter, Frank. If say, someone like Martin Freeman or Simon Pegg (Sherlock, The World’s End), played this part, the character would have likely been more effective, and the presence of a skilled actor (who wasn’t also directing and writing the film) might have encouraged the rest of the cast, and Ricky, to up their game.
On the whole, Special Correspondents isn’t a complete waste of time. The premise fueling the fun is entertaining once it gets going in the 2nd act, and some of Gervais’ observations are hilarious. The cast seems game and do okay with the material they’re given, and the broader commentary about the state of our news media and the general public’s gullibility are clearly (though simplistically) made.
Ricky Gervais wrote, directed and starred in this film. If you like Ricky Gervais and you think he’s funny, then you’re probably going to like this film. It’s that simple.
Ian Finch (Ricky Gervais) joins Frank to pick up their equipment for the trip to Ecuador, and ponders why they don’t get bullet proof pants to go with their vests. It’s a tiny moment in the film, but honestly, one of the few things I clearly remember after watching it.