Film Review: What We Did On Our Holiday

It’s a strange situation, I had heard good things about What We Did On Our Holiday and yet having watched the film I can’t for the life of me see where or why this praise was earned. I just found it farcical balderdash and a poor imitation. A side from a few quick one liners dotted sporadically throughout, I struggle to find any redeeming feature.

It was written and directed Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin and is obviously their way of attempting to bring the successful formula for Outnumbered, their hit BBC sitcom in which two parents are run ragged by their three ad-libbing children, to the big screen. The problem is though, the formula doesn’t translate without the characters. Firstly because you spend the entire time comparing the characters from one to the other, and secondly, because the story becomes too stretched out, and the madness of a flexible script ends up more distracting and annoying as time goes on.

David Tennant - What We Did On Our Holiday

To get the comparisons out of the way, David Tennant as the patriarchal father shares a lot of character traits with Hugh Dennis’s original. And is actually one of the few characters you really believe in and accept. He looks the part, and even better, he looks removed enough from Doctor Who that you never actually feel he is the Time Lord that made him so famous. He’s nails the dishevelled, tired, just trying his best persona and image that his character demands.

The children, the main focus of the story and the ad-libbing they do, are obviously the strongest comparison. And for me, they just don’t really gel. I didn’t really buy into them being a family, being related. They felt quite often like they were being pushed together and it created scenes that felt forced and wrong. There are just times when everything felt a little awkward as people tried to tip toe around what they were saying. I also felt the youngest daughter Jess (Harriet Turnbull) just lacks the timing, whit and view of life that Ramona Marquez (Karen in Outnumbered) has.

Ben Miller - What We Did On Our Holiday

A lot had also been made of Rosamund Pike and the fact that when What We Did On Our Holiday was showing in the cinema, it was alongside Pike’s more extreme performance in Gone Gone. And while I liked Pike in Gone Girl, in this, I just found her far too serious and starched. She just seemed completely at odds with the rest of her family. Even her children. To the point that you never relaxed around her character and I never felt comfortable that she truly fitted in.

Worse still is Ben Miller. He’s not Scottish. He doesn’t look Scottish and he certainly doesn’t sound Scottish. His attempt to convince so bad that it becomes annoying, parodical and lowers the tone of the film from a fun family comedy to that of a stand-up sketch show. His natural territory. Highlighted best by the fact that in a film surrounded by those naturally from Caledonia it is only he who ever wears a kilt.

My biggest problem with the film though is the story. While imitation of character can be forgiven for paling to the original, it should have a plot capable of standing up for itself. But it doesn’t. The plot is so ludicrous and comically bad that to call it far fetched far-fetched isn’t quite going far enough. You really can’t buy into it for a second. For me though, the worse part is that this decline into absurdity is slow painful and metronomic. The film seemingly starting off OK and potentially enjoyable then twists it’s way, pushing the ideas one, slow, step, wilder and more fanciful until any idea of reality is broken. And with everything that happens on screen becoming more and more removed from normal life you stop concentrating on the plot, realising that is not portraying real life and but rather is just a work of comic fiction, and start concentrating on the characters and their conversations, which is why the opening paragraphs of hatred towards them exist. One failing of the film truly highlights every other.

Cast - Outnumbered

I wont even mention the joke about eating disorders.

What We Did On Our Holiday was always going to be on a hiding to nothing because you can almost see that it’s an just an attempt to stop people from constantly demanding an Outnumbered film. And because you can sense this, you feel that nobody really believed fully in it. It feels more like an snapped answer than an fresh idea, and if I’m honest, I’d have preferred to watch 3 episodes of Outnumbered back to back, than spend 90 minutes watching it’s sibling fall apart.

4 out of 10 stars (4 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

Comments are closed.