One of most recent additions to ever growing library of Netflix Originals comes from the mind of Ricky Gervais, who stars in and directs his first film since Cemetery Junction. The film follows Frank Bonneville (Eric Bana), an egotistical and somewhat arrogant radio journalist who is tasked with travelling to Ecuador to report on a rebel uprising. Joining him on this assignment is Ian Finch (Gervais), a radio technician whose wife just left him. Unfortunately for the duo a blunder leaves them stranded in New York with no passports, fearing for their jobs they create a ruse to trick their employers into thinking they are reporting from Ecuador. However things escalate quickly and their fake reporting becomes a national story, leaving them with no option but to continue the false reporting.
Special Correspondents is supposed to be a comedy, but there is nothing funny about it, in it, or surrounding it aside from how it got made in the first place. The film is just another in a string of releases from Gervais that has failed to translate his TV success to feature length films. His work as a host on the Golden Globes, working on The Office, and Extras show just how funny his comedy can be, but for one reason or another he just can’t replicate it on something longer than 30 minutes, and this latest effort is possibly the worst of the lot.
The story is horribly predictable, and the characters are shockingly stereotypical shells. Frank is your egotistical lead who plays by his own rules, and Ian is a timid nice guy with an unfaithful wife who uses him. Now we’ve seen characters like this more than once so it’s a bit tiresome to see them again, however what further annoys you about them is that certain characteristics which represent certain demographics become ammunition for humour. For example, Ian is not only a quiet, well mannered man, he also has a love for comics, figurines and gaming, all aspects that are solely used to make fun of him. It’s the type of humour school kids use to bully one another. Maybe I don’t like it because I read comics, have enjoyed gaming and own a couple of “dolls” myself, but I know when to laugh at myself and the stuff here is just poorly constructed.
The same can be said for the pacing or plot, as we spend around about an hour with Frank and Ian holed up in an attic reporting fictitious events. Then when they run out of options, and likely ideas for the story, the last part of the film is rushed and unnecessary as they make their way to Ecuador to try and make their story appear real. The only saving grace to be found here is Vera Farmiga playing Ian’s wife Eleanor Finch. Not only is she an unfaithful wife, disenchanted with her relationship, she’s a fame seeking, money grabbing piece of work and Farmiga plays the role brilliantly. But lets not get carried away, the rest of the film is boring rubbish and Kelly Macdonald is completely wasted on the film.
Do yourself a favour and give this a miss, even a powerhouse like Netflix can churn out a poor piece of content now and then and Special Correspondents is one of them.