A light hearted British comedy with a big-name cast. This is the recipe that landed disasters like Death at a Funeral and Nativity! on our plates. Fortunately What we did on our Holiday isn’t a total stinker.
Briefly put, David Tennant and Rosamund Pike (my childhood James Bond crush) star as a couple on the brink of divorce. They are looking to take their three kids up to Scotland to see Tennant’s dad, Billy Conolly, who’s terminally ill.
This is from the same group behind Outnumbered and initially it shows a little too much. There’s a lot of scenes with adults simply reacting to the improvisations of witty kids. Very soon however this concept takes a back seat in the film, and that’s a good thing; charming as it is, it quickly gets old.
Actually, What we did on our holiday gets a lot better all round as it wears on. Yes, it doesn’t really make sense and yes, it seems to run out of time to deal with the issues it raises, but the irritating jokes and poorly executed slapstick moments last only for the first 20 minutes.
What separates this film from its peers is that it’s secure enough not to have to rely on comedy to get by. The writers preach to us about our mortality, our sense of self and the pettiness of society. It doesn’t always pay off but kudos to them for not sissying out and hiding behind cringeworthy jokes. The key scenes are bold, and stand alone nicely. It’s actually what winds up being most memorable about the film.
I’m giving out backhanded compliments for a reason, this is quite an empty film. The central message is heart warming and fuzzy, but it’s not exactly breaking new ground. It’s typical of a modern British comedy (albeit one that isn’t completely unwatchable); the cast are funny and familiar, as is the script, there are lots of white people, said people don’t really feel three dimensional… I could go on.
Part of the problem lies with the topic. Death, divorce, just isn’t that funny, no matter how many morbid jokes you attempt to make. Life really is too short, and laughing about it only gets us so far. That’s where this film gets to, and that’s fine, just don’t expect much more.