Never has a premise gotten so lost in such a poorly written script than in “Special Correspondents,” the new Ricky Gervais directed film that recently debuted on Netflix. What could’ve been a whip-smart satire is instead wasted on this huge disappointment of a movie. It’s stereotypically British in a way: watchable yet bland.
“Special Correspondents” is a remake of the 2009 French film “Envoyes Tres Speciaux.” It starts with a fantastic premise: New York City radio reporter and womanizer Frank (Eric Bana) and his sad-sack sound engineer Ian (Gervais) get assigned to cover a civil war in Ecuador. When a mishap causes them to miss their flight, the pair hide out in a nearby ethnic restaurant and fake on-the-ground audio reports from across the street. After spinning a complex web of lies, the duo eventually get in way too deep and end up faking their own kidnappings. It’s fun to a point — but then gets uncomfortably ridiculous. The idea is a great one, but the characters so poorly developed that the film stalls and ultimately goes nowhere.
Some true moments of inspired greatness come mostly from America Ferrera as the restaurant’s dim-witted proprietor and Vera Farmiga as Ian’s opportunistic wife Eleanor. When Ian and Frank go missing and capture the hearts of Americans everywhere, Eleanor takes to television talk shows, singing her original song: “Dollar for a Hero.” Soon she’s collected a pile of money by exploiting this “tragedy.” This is one of the funniest parts of the film and really shows the meaningful social commentary and satirical greatness this film could have achieved.
Ricky Gervais is fine as a director, simply competent and straightforward. A huge problem with the film is that there is zero chemistry between Gervais and Bana. It’s really, really awful and unpleasant to watch. Most of the performances here are pretty tepid and boring across the board, and the film isn’t as funny as it should be. There’s nothing super impressionable here (it feels like a not so great ripoff of “Wag the Dog“), but it’s still just good enough to make it worthy of a Netflix night.
This new original movie can be viewed exclusively on Netflix.
I love Ricky Gervais. For some reason, his sense of humor generally gibes with mine. So when I found out that he wrote and directed the remake of the French movie “Envoyes tres speciaux” for Netflix, I had to check it out.
“Special Correspondents” is a fun idea: two hapless radio journalists (Eric Bana and Gervais) fake reports that they send in supposedly from a war-torn country, when in reality they are really holed up in an apartment across the street from their radio station. When their bosses demand that they show up at the U.S. Embassy, they fake their own kidnapping to avoid having their lie exposed.
It’s a fun idea with a good cast that, in addition to Gervais and Bana, includes the always-delightful Vera Farmiga as well as America Ferrera and Kevin Pollak. There are some enjoyable bits here, mostly those involving Ferrara’s character and her husband Domingo (Raul Castillo), who are the only ones who know about the journalists’ ruse.
That said, there isn’t much substance here. In spite of the better-than-average cast and the talent of Gervais, this feels every bit a straight-to-Netflix affair that was clearly made with a limited budget and resources. If you’re a fan of Gervais and the rest of the actors, it may be worth a watch. Otherwise, skip it.