Rating Ricky Gervais: What the Critics Are Saying

Ricky Gervais Golden Globe Awards Stage - H 2012
Paul Drinkwater/NBC via Getty Images

Ricky Gervais Golden Globe Awards Stage - H 2012

Has Ricky Gervais lost his edge? The Golden Globes troublemaker, who drew outrage (and accolades) for his 2011 turn as host and teased another round of vicious celebrity roasting this year, seemed to have toned it down Sunday night, noted critics.

THR's Tim Goodman said Gervais' performance fell short of expections, and "seemed like such a letdown." But that wasn't the host's fault, Goodman noted, adding: "And yet, if the ceremony itself had any kind of sparkle or snap to it -- which it did not -- a tame Gervais wouldn’t be such a big story."

He wrote: "The trouble with the Golden Globes telecast this year was simple -- it was egregiously boring. The Oscars and Emmys can't get here fast enough to erase this three-hour dud."

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Given Gervais' restraint, Goodman suggested that perhaps tthe comedian was punishing show organizers for causing such a fuss the year before, when his jokes hit high notes with viewers back home but low notes with uptight attendees.

"He wasn't merciless. He wasn't outraged. Hell, he didn't even seem very involved or even committed," Goodman observed. "It’s as if he said, 'You hired me last year knowing what you'd get, then you fired me when you got it. Well, this year you get what you truly wanted. And you definitely get what you deserve.'"

Meanwhile, Vulture's Willa Paskin thought Gervais had simply gone soft.

"Maybe Gervais didn’t want to have to spend the next year arguing that Hollywood wasn't actually mad at him, or maybe he was just feeling benevolent, but the guy who hosted this Golden Globes was the kinder, cuddlier Gervais," she observed.

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"In his opening monologue he took aim at such soft targets as NBC, the Kardashians, and Bieber, giving the people in the room a free pass," she wrote, adding: "Too bad that without his tough humor acting as a lightning rod, this show was unfocused and irrelevant. The audience -- at home and in the auditorium -- came expecting fight night, and all we got was a regular old awards show."

In a review of NBC telecast, Mary McNamara of The Los Angeles Times called Gervais' performance "respectful and restrained," and "leaving one to wonder why he bothered to take the gig at all (except for the money, of course)."

Following the sharp-tongued comic's previous -- and merciless -- potshots toward A-listers from Angelina Jolie to Robert Downey Jr., there was the promise of more to come in 2012, with promotional spots teasing that Gervais would keep up his bad behavior.

"Gervais went on a media blitz explaining why last year's show was, in fact, not offensive and why he would not be cowed by thin-skinned critics," McNamara wrote. "But actions speak louder than words, and though Gervais opened his monologue by taking a sip of beer and asking 'So where was I?' he was surprisingly subdued."

Echoed The Washington Post: "(It) was a pretty run-of-the-mill monologue. Amusing, but hardly the controversial piece of work the Foreign Press and NBC had been hyping."

His most memorable jokes involved from calling Colin Firth "racist," NBC a "nonprofit organization" and Kim Kardashian the Golden Globes to Kate Middleton's Academy Award -- because she's a "bit louder, a bit trashier, a bit drunker, and more easily bought. Allegedly."

The New York Times' Alessandra Stanley judged Gervais as reigning his nastier self in to appease the show's organizers. She said it "wasn’t an unpredictable or even a very seditious performance --  a lot of the time his jokes felt forced and heavy-handed. Mostly, Mr. Gervais’s return as a naughty, nasty master of ceremonies -- this was his third time -- was a reminder that in show business, it’s all business."