Starring Billy Connolly, David Tennant, Rosamund Pike, Ben Miller, Celia Imrie
When Doug (David Tennant) and Abi (Rosamund Pike) McLeod pack their three precocious kids into the car and off to the highland’s for the birthday celebration of Doug’s irascible father, Gordie (Billy Connolly), they make sure to tell them not to let anybody know that Daddy is staying in a different house these days.
They’re not alone in having secrets they want to keep: Doug’s class-conscious brother, Gavin (Ben Miller) and his wife, Margaret (Amelia Bullmore) have some of their own, while everyone wants to keep the children innocent of the knowledge that Gordie has terminal cancer. As is ever the case, everything eventually gets dragged out into the light through a series of comedic setpieces.
This slight but enjoyable British family comedy feels like a TV movie that somehow found its way onto the big screen, and that should come as no surprise: it has its roots in the popular light series, Outnumbered. It’s a jolly enough affair, populated by archetypes rather than rounded characters, and if it doesn’t quite have a good enough grasp on the themes it wants to explore or even the narrative arc that it tracks, it’s never less than charming and amusing.
This is largely due to the hugely charismatic cast, anchored by the ever-reliable Connolly, here playing the kind of wise, globe-trotting, adventurous patriarch that only really exists in fiction. The film also boasts some sterling performances from the three child actors recruited to portray the McLeod brood; Emilia Jones, Bobby Smalldridge and Harriet Turnbull mange the rather impressive trick of being cute, funny and engaging without crossing over into tweeness (or, at least, not too often). The rest of the film gets sidelined when they’re messing around with Connolly and frankly, it’s for the best – the four of them are more fun than the rest of the film combined.
It all plays out like a mashup between Secrets And Lies and The Good Life, with a touch of Local Hero‘s Scottish charm thrown in for good measure. The whole thing doesn’t add up to much, but it’s entertaining enough in the moment, and there are a few actual laugh-out-loud moments. Still, don’t expect to remember much about it later – this is cinematic ephemera.