Sascha Hartmann’s Sir Billi is able to boast being the very first, computer animated feature, to be created and produced entirely in Scotland. However on this evidence, there’s a very good chance this could well be the last, too.
The title role – voiced by the distinguishable Sean Connery – is an ageing veterinarian, with a lust for excitement. The octogenarian – dubbed the Guardian of the Highlands – shows no signs of slowing down, however he is put the test when he embarks on a fantastical mission to save Bessie Boo (Valentina Hartmann), a beaver who is also an illegal fugitive (naturally). With evil policemen on their tail, alongside friends such as Gordon the Goat (Alan Cumming), who think he’s a dog, and the aquaphobic Admiral (Patrick Doyle) – it seems a challenging battle of wits is required to safely escape.
First and foremost – and where Sir Billi suffers most greatly, is within the ugly style of animation. You have to appreciate this is of course low-budget, but there is a way of remaining charming, despite the lack of funds – take South Park, for instance. This just looks like the sort of cheap product an advertising company would knock up to promote personalised birthday cards. There is a place for this surreal and outlandish form of children’s picture, where nothing really makes sense and pure absurdity takes precedence over anything else. However beneath the surface, there needs to be some heart and some meaning of sort, yet this lacks greatly in both. Inane and illusory adventure movies like this can work if done properly. Remember the 1980s Disney cartoon The Brave Little Toaster? No? Well that one worked.
On a more positive note, at points there is a dry, Scottish humour prevalent, picking up on the people’s sensibilities and then expanding them enormously for comic effect. Bit like a cinematic version of one of those street artists who do caricature portraits of exploited tourists. Also, there are positives to be had in the fact our protagonist and hero is an elderly man, even if Up did get there first. It’s a surprise that this managed to attract the likes of Alan Cumming and Sean Connery, though hearing their voices does provide the smallest amount of comfort. Hearing Ruby Wax, on the other hand, is not quite so comforting.
With a lacklustre script, a nonsensical story with no direction and a horrible aesthetic – there isn’t much by way of a saving grace for Sir Billi. Actually that’s a lie, this is only 76 minutes long, which is a distinct bonus. If you really want to take your kids to see a Scottish movie this Autumn, take them to see Irvine Welsh’s Filth. It will probably result in less resulting nightmares for them.