Not everybody loves Billy. I accept that. Maybe it’s those f-bombs he so liberally peppers his comedy with. Yes, they grate on me too – but I forgive him. I forgive him because of the joy that he expresses for life every time he takes the stage. To my mind Billy is a one off, a planetary treasure. How can a man (or woman) go up to a microphone, with no idea what they’re going to roll with and then entertain – no – have them rolling in the aisles – for several hours? Unfortunately though, for all his genius on this platform, ‘What We Did on Our Holiday’ proves what I’ve thought all along – Billy can’t act.
This is a movie with faults on many fronts. There’s the miscasting of David Tennant – brilliant in such vehicles as ‘Broadchurch’ – but in this comedic role he is all at sea. Unlike Billy he is not a natural comic. Many scenes seemed overly staged in the very worst way – so much so they resembled a series of skits from the ‘Paul Hogan Show’. It was that bad. David S had it in a nutshell when, in his recent review of in the Weekend Oz, he opined on the movie’s ending ‘…the film-makers opt for the feel good rather than embracing the astringent mood of the rest of the movie. Everything is wrapped up just too neatly, and that’s a pity.’ On top of this there’s the problem with the kids. The offering comes to us from the same people responsible for television’s glorious ‘Outnumbered’. Over its five series its three youngsters were unscripted, with the adult actors having to carry on regardless with the general direction of each episode despite the red herrings their mini-tyros threw up at them. By the time the show had its legs all had their place in proceedings down pat. Compared to the joys of that modus operandi on the small screen, the new configuration of Emilia Jones, Bobby Smalldridge and Harriet Turnbull just simply were not in the same class. What was so natural in ‘Outnumbered’ here was clunky and forced. At times Ben Miller also seemed very stilted in his role as Doug’s (Tennant) miserly, insensitive brother. And on top of it all, then there’s the issue that Billy can’t act.
Yet, despite all of the above when it’s examined forensically, like David, I was still pretty rapt in this BBC production. The audience that shared the viewing room with me laughed in all the right places – and I, at times, struggled to keep my mirth in check. Billy, despite his thespian shortcomings off the stand-up stage, still enhances any film he’s involved in simply by just being Billy. And as staged as they might be, some of the scenes with the children are still delightful – particularly if Billy is there too. Rosamund Pike, completing this before her game-changing star turn in ‘Gone Girl’, lights up proceedings whenever she’s in shot. The movie is an affirmation that life is for living for its pleasures and we’re not to be distracted by its silly, mundane minutiae.
What’s it about? Well a dysfunctional – I hate that word but listen closely in the film – couple decided to try and hold it all together one last time for the sake of the dying Gordy (Billy Connolly), Doug’s father. Gordy resides in far off Scotland and is having his very last birthday on Earth. The road trip there is a train wreck, but that’s nothing compared to what happens on a Scottish beach after arrival. Here, I must say, you have to put the practicalities of how the kids actually achieved what they did to one side and simply go with it. Also featured are an ostrich, a lesbian and a Viking ship – so from all that you can gather you are in for a fair amount of mayhem and that is duly delivered. And even if she’s a bit like Billy in the acting department, if you are anything like me, you’ll be simply enamoured of the notebook addicted eldest child. I hope I see plenty more of little Ms Jones.
As most of us are aware, in real life Billy is not a well man. He is battling the ravages of time on several fronts and, touch wood, to date winning – he’s still touring the world presenting his captivating shtick of crazy patter and making movies – in which he defies acting. I fervently hope She up there, beyond the silver lining, gives him a little more time with us.
The Official Trailer = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUY23_cfI4o