Title: What We Did On Our Holiday
Directors: Andy Hamilton, Guy Jenkin
Major Players: David Tennant, Rosamund Pike, Billy Connolly
Out Of Five: 2.5
I so wanted to like this! On paper, What We Did On Our Holiday looks great fun – and so does the trailer. There’s David Tennant and Billy Connolly, and a script by Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin. What’s not to like? Sadly, it turns out an awful lot!
The story is this. Doug (Tennant) and Abi (Rosamund Pike) and their three children take off to Scotland for a long weekend to celebrate the 75th birthday of Doug’s father, Gordy (Connolly). There’s going to be a big party, organised by Doug’s pompous brother Gavin (Ben Miller), who lives in something close to a country mansion. But the inevitable family secrets complicate matters: Doug and Abi are living apart but don’t want Gordy to know – because he has terminal cancer.
Did I have a sense of humour failure on the evening in question? I don’t think so. Part of my problem with the film could lie with its authors and directors, Messrs Hamilton and Jenkins, who were also responsible for the highly successful TV comedy series, Outnumbered. I have a sneaky suspicion that, if you enjoyed that, you’ll be happier with the film than I was. Because what they’ve done is to take a similar group of overly-savvy kids and put them in a different situation on the big screen. Trouble is, I never took to Outnumbered.
The big screen is another of the issues I had with the film. Five minutes in, it was looking more like something that had been made for TV – a Christmas special, perhaps – and then somebody had the bright idea of putting it on at the cinema. Tennant’s legions of fans would flock in and it would make money. Wouldn’t it? It probably will, but that doesn’t make it a good idea. Because it’s simply not meant for the big screen in the first place.
It gets worse. There’s a rogue ostrich that flits across the screen from time to time. The first time it happens, your interest is piqued because you think you’re in for something a little bit quirky. After its third appearance, you’re getting fed up of it and would just like to be told how it fits in. Actually, it doesn’t have any significance. The flock of ostriches belong to a friend of Gordy’s. End of.
That’s just one of a string of ideas and possibilities left floating in thin air. Middle child Mickey (Bobby Smalldridge) is obsessed with Vikings – at the start of the film he’s watching the funeral at the end of Kirk Douglas epic The Vikings and he has a poster of Odin on his wall, complete with eye patch. Later in the film, when all the guests arrive for the birthday party, there’s one tall man wearing an eye patch – Odin, as far as Mickey’s concerned. But does he meet his hero? Nah! He doesn’t even get close. So why waste time on all the build up? Incidentally, the guest in question is also the victim of some painfully obvious plotting. He’s stone deaf – so when somebody explains to him why Gordy hasn’t arrived at the do, it’s hardly private!
There’s depressingly few genuine laughs. There are the mandatory ones – swipes at easy targets like the media and politicians – but the only really good gag is about Gavin’s ‘intelligent’ house, which is controlled by technology. There’s no light switches: you just clap your hands accordingly and this makes a neat running joke but, like the rest of the film, even that is under-developed.
What We Did On Our Holiday is such a massive disappointment. All the ingredients are there – a really likeable cast and a pair of writer/directors who have a seriously good track record. So, what did they do on their holiday? Well, it looked like they came up with this script while suffering from sunstroke.
What We Did On Our Holiday is released around the UK on Friday, 26 September.