The plot sees David Tennant and Rosamund Pike as a couple who are on the rocks, taking their children to Scotland for a big birthday celebration for family patriarch Billy Connolly, with everyone in a house together, hiding secrets from one another, until things begin to unravel after an incident at the beach. All because children are children. Throw in a money-hungry Ben Miller and an Inspector Calls-like police presence from Celia Imrie and the concept of a farce is waiting to take hold. The only problem is writer-directors Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin are more interested in shots of ostriches walking around the Scottish estate and kids say the darnedest things than a tightly-woven series of mistakes, mishaps and hijinks, which leads to a sudden influx in the second hour of real plot that forces the tone, the pace and the comedic elements to become something completely different to the first hour. The film decides to try and carry out many small subplots in one go and the audience is given tonal whiplash for it.
To recommend the film is to add a caveat of ‘only if you know it works for you already’ as no minds are being changed on the style and presentation in the Outnumbered vein in this film, and despite changing up Hugh Dennis for Tennant – this big screen endeavour isn’t really the kind of upgrade you may have expected from the writing duo. The visual style never raises any bars, nor is the humour substantially altered or even built upon, and besides one big moment that changes every part of the film, from plot to tone, the amiable story-lines could be handled on the Beeb, in 30 minutes, quite easily. Dragging things out for 95 minutes with little substance or base to build the characters, comedy and emotion around makes a lot of the film sludge along, even fans will start to wonder why they made this film without really finding something cinematic or suitably feature-length in the writing.
Connolly leads the pack well, Tennant and Pike are strong at times, but given little for so long, and the child actors – Emilia Jones, Bobby Smalldridge and Harriet Turnbull – do their best whilst being forced to shoulder the brunt of the film unfairly, and without much fleshing out of their individual characters. What We Did On Our Holiday mostly flounders around gasping at the brief spots of water it can find on a dry Scottish beach before being scooped up and tossed into the water right at the end by sheer convenience and need to send the fish home happy. Outnumbered fans will find more enjoyment out of it than non-fan cinemagoers, but not enough to warrant heading to the big screen for the experience. It’ll maybe work even better on a smaller screen, with the family yapping over one another amidst the downtimes in the film.