Wednesday, March 22, 2017
"Special Correspondents" (2016) and Ricky Gervais's curious lowered bar in the filmic world
If there's one thing most people can agree on, it's that Ricky Gervais is a comic genius when it comes to making TV. The breadth of influence from his melancholy character creations on "The Office" and "Extras" has been seen all over the TV landscape.
What's curious is that a lot of this innovation is absent in Ricky Gervais's films. "Ghost Town", "Invention of Lying" and this film basically work through the age-old comic method of character and opposing concept like (off the top of my head) guy who wishes to grow up meets adulthood ("Big" or "13 on 30" in reverse), president wielding extraordinary power meets small-town politics ("Welcome to Mooseport"), thoughtless man with no appreciation for present meets eternal present ("Groundhog Day"), or powerless man meets eternal power ("Bruce Almighty") "Ghost Town" is a case of a guy who wishes to be left alone being forced to deal with the dead on top of the living people he wishes to avoid. "Invention of Lying" is a case of man without influence gets power over gullible society. "Special Correspondents" is a case of lazy news reporters meeting real news.
With the exception of "Invention of Lying" (which lends itself to home-run-hitting dialogue), none of these have the depth in their premise that could reach the same comic heights. As is, it's a decent film that works at the lower degree of difficulty set in by its script. The quieter moments of character development, though somewhat sitcom-llke, tend to work and the characters hit their notes.
Ricky Gervais is a news reporter who has accepted he's a schlub in life (much like his "Invention of Lying" character at the start) despite somehow managing to snag Vera Farminga as a wife. Gervais digs relatively deep although the tone of the supporting cast (Vera Farmiga is pretty arch, America Ferrera is "Latino comical" in a way that mirrors Sofia Vergara's "Modern Family" role) and the film's plot would pick a fight with any sense of pathos. Still, Gervais is likable and kind of sweet and his chemistry with love interest (though the two have an admirably platonic vibe).
Why Gervais is so stifled when he apparently has directorial control and is credited as a writer on these films is hard to figure out, but the film is what it is.