What We Did On Our Holiday (2014) – Review

Directed by Andy Hamilton, Guy Jenkin
Written by Andy Hamilton, Guy Jenkin
Starring David Tennant, Rosamund Pike, Billy Connolly, Ben Miller
Doug (Tennant) and Abi (Pike), in the midst of a separation they would rather not shout about, travel to Scotland to celebrate Doug’s Father’s (Connolly) 75th birthday with their three children and the rest of their dysfunctional family.

Find a formula that works and stick to it. In this case, Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin take what is essentially their own lovingly crafted Outnumbered, the much lauded British sitcom, change the characters just enough to make it seem like a new project and tell the same jokes. The kids and the parents may be different, but it’s still just a warm, mostly fuzzy and regularly delightful version of ‘Kids Say The Funniest Things’, that all parents will both recognise and be delighted by, if only for the reason that this is proof positive that they are not alone in their feelings of occasional complete parental helplessness and fear of not doing right, despite their best efforts, by those they love the most.
So this stretched out cinematic version comes replete with David Tennant and Rosamund Pike in the lead roles, parents to three inquisitive and mostly confident children that are not afraid to speak their minds and are curious about seemingly everything. Yes, they have their own quirks and foibles, like all kids, but they are all the more engaging for that fact. Hamilton and Jenkin have again developed a fantastic group of characters here that are completely watchable and have apparently just let them go for it, in a performance sense. This is the way Outnumbered became so successful, particularly by letting the children run riot verbally over their carers, often with pleasingly jaw-dropping results.
If you want to be picky, it’s not even a holiday, really, which makes a bit of a mockery of the title. And this is kind of the point. You don’t really want to be picky and the shortcomings of the film (and there are a number of them) can easily be avoided because for the most part, this is such a feel-good film, you can’t help but overlook the errors. Yes, it is toe-curlingly cheesy at times and you can almost imagine Andy Hamilton trying to give impossibly twee direction to the family that seems a touch too contrived, but you’re just having too good a time grinning your head off to be too critical.
Performance-wise, there isn’t a rum one amongst them. To be fair, most of the players appearing that are over the legal drinking age are seasoned veterans by now and it is only the addition of the children here that bring the average age of the cast down to below Marigold Hotel proportions. Billy Connolly as the grandfather for whom all of these trials are being borne is delightful, both playful and chock full of faux-curmudgeon, effortlessly convincing his grandchildren of his sage knowledge of just about everything, dispensing advice in the way only an old man dying of cancer truly can, with gay abandon and shocking carefree honesty.
Pike and Tennant are both very convincing in a wits end portrayal of parenthood, juggling the attempts to manage every childhood issue with the very real problems of the end of their own relationship, trying to remain calm when all around them is begging them to lose control. The script here is probably most impressive, suggesting an understanding reserved for those that have lived through the relationship issues witnessed here. Thankfully, this never becomes too overbearing, with both Hamilton an Jenkin clearly keen to veer away from becoming too bogged down in these potentially depressing plot pitfalls and instead keeping the mood airy and light for long periods, which given the plot, is no mean feat at all.

Altogether, a highly recommended comedy that will have you laughing out loud occasionally and grinning almost entirely through its running time. The children are the stars by the end of this truly heart-warming tale of family, love and loss, such is their fantastic delivery of the superlative script. It is easy to tell that this comes from two formidable comedy writers and there are unspoken visual gags too to pick up on, not least the emus and the clap-on lights. Go and see it and be really pleased you picked it, because you surely will.

Out in UK cinemas this weekend, 26th September.

Written for Flickering Myth

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