What We Did on Our Holidays review: don’t parents say the funniest things...

    
Director: Andy Hamilton, Guy Jenkin
Cert: 12A
Genre: Comedy
Starring: David Tennant, Rosamund Pike, Billy Connolly, Celia Imrie
Running Time: 1 hr 35 mins

You deserve some sort of honour if, as a creator of comedy, you devise a technique so solid that it can translate from TV to film without losing any of its personality. Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin, creators of Outnumbered, have invented new characters for their first feature, but it is unmistakably a horse from the same stable.

What We Did on Our Holidays stars Rosamund Pike and David Tennant as a rapidly dissolving couple who, for the sake of Dave's dying dad (Billy Connolly), elect to pretend they are still happily entwined while visiting the old geezer in the Scottish Highlands. Yet it would take only a few seconds for any Outnumbered fan to identify Hamilton and Jenkin's fingerprints.

The film takes in quite a bit of plot: David’s brother (Ben Miller) is a striving social climber; his sister-in-law has metal health issues; Billy’s birthday party gets disturbed by an unlikely disaster. But the film is really about the amusing interactions between the adults and the couple’s cheeky, precocious children. As in the series, the grownups’ lines are nailed down, whereas the kids get to improvise their way towards off-centre nuttiness. The result is a sort of minor marvel: everything about the formula promises glutinous indulgence – a compilation of tweets relating the allegedly funny things your awful child says – but, somehow or other, Hamilton and Jenkin allow rough edges to show through. The children have an emotional ruthlessness their parents can’t quite rival.

So, What We Did on Our Holiday passes the time happily enough. It is more sentimental and more contrived than Outnumbered: characters will insist on changing and embarking on better lives. The visuals are flat and utilitarian. But the facility and charm of the piece can't be doubted.


Of upcoming films in which Rosamund Pike falls out with her husband, it certainly offers more laughs than Gone Girl.

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist