Having created the always inventive and witty sitcom ‘Outnumbered’, Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin’s decision to move to feature length retaining a lot of the same formula may have been met with some scepticism, since sitcoms rarely make for good films and while this isn’t a direct adaptation, it’s a least a sibling of the popular BBC show. Starring the likes of David Tennant, Rosamund Pike, Billy Connolly and Ben Miller it’s definitely not short of both acting and comic talent and you know that the duo will be able to find child actors whose creativity knows no bounds. They definitely have done that as Emilia Jones, Harriet Turnbull and Bobby Smalldridge are often hilarious and always charming, working very well with their adult counterparts, particularly David Tennant and Billy Connolly, with whom their chemistry is palpable. It seemed then that the formula transferred to the big screen pretty perfectly really, but it gets a bit unstuck when you realise that because it is longer than a TV episode, it needs more meat on its bones.
The meat is where it starts to unravel. Up until it’s deemed necessary to bring a bit more to the story, the film is regularly funny, often very moving and feels so effortless it feels like it could well be the comedy of the year. The sudden change in tone puts a spanner in the works however, and the film definitely struggles to deal with this shift as the middle act veers strangely between genres, shattering what had been up until then a very pleasant illusion. It’s a shame because the acting performances are still excellent, but when the film grinds back in to gear again that initial magic has somewhat petered away.
That’s not to say at all that this is a bad film. It’s well made, well written when it’s sure where it’s standing and doesn’t feel phoned in at all, but it’s hard not to wish that that sincerity could not be better rewarded with a film that doesn’t feel quite as disjointed. As far as a comedy goes though, it certainly contains a lot of laughs and will ensure you’re smiling on the way out of the cinema, but you get the sense that the film could have elevated from that level if it could just string itself together a bit better because the performances, particularly a wonderful turn from the brilliant Connolly, definitely deserve it.
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