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By Sarah Ward
February 20, 2015
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By Sarah Ward
February 20, 2015
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Kids do and say the funniest things, with no opportunity spared in reminding us of this fact. We were all children once, so we’ve been there and done that — and an endless parade of movies and TV shows, fictional and otherwise, just wants to keep bringing it up. What We Did On Our Holiday is the latest, the first feature written and directed by the folks behind British child-centric sitcom Outnumbered. Writer/director duo Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin have found what they think is a winning formula, and they’re sticking to it — but should they?

Or should audiences? That’s the more pressing question, particularly for those without their own offspring in tow. Showing the amusing side of having a family while managing more than just nodding at those exasperated at their own kids is a far trickier feat than it seems. It’s the entertainment equivalent of a social media feed filled with someone’s proud photos of their children; there needs to be something more than just smiling baby faces for others to have fun.

What We Did On Our Holiday brings a likeable, recognisable cast and broad sentiments about not sweating the small stuff along for its journey out of English suburbia and into the Scottish Highlands, in an attempt to package the pitter-patter of tiny feet into something more universally relatable. Recently estranged couple Doug (David Tennant) and Abi (Rosamund Pike) try to keep up the appearance of happiness at the 75th birthday bash of Doug’s cancer-stricken father Gordy (Billy Connolly). Their kids — the sensible older daughter, the cheeky son and the curious youngster — have other plans.

Doctor Who and Gone Girl’s Amazing Amy Tennant and Pike are not, instead bickering over their emotional baggage and left looking uncomfortable with their jaws agape at the antics they can’t stop their brood getting up to. Connolly is as charming as ever, even toned-down and waxing lyrical with nostalgia, but the film’s sights are constantly aimed at the trio of tykes under ten spouting semi-improvised dialogue to wring the biggest laughs.

To be fair, children can be cute and they can utter hilarious yet insightful pearls of wisdom, particularly in silly situations — which What We Did On Our Holiday has plenty of. Social-climbing relatives and eccentric neighbours provide some of the drama, all of the stereotypical, easily predictable type, of course. Needlessly trying to keep secrets — about a marriage, an illness and from the police after a particularly ridiculous, darker twist — takes care of the rest.

The film’s tone of sweet, simple, observational humour is certainly well intentioned, as are the picturesque country and beachside settings. However, 95 minutes of kids stumbling into contrived adult chaos against a pretty backdrop also acts as a test of patience, and some will find their limits exceeded long before the Hollywood ending.

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