This film comes from the mind of comedian turned writer David Walliams. It’s one of his children’s books that have been turned into TV movies. This feature is directed by Matt Lipsey, it has a runtime of about an hour, and like Walliams’s other features, there is a decent cast assembled to act out the parts.
11-year-old Ben is bored. Every weekend his parents Linda and Mike spend time with their hobby of ballroom dancing. They are either watching it on TV, or they are doing it as a dancing couple. Meanwhile Ben is constantly being shipped off to his grandmother’s house who he finds boring. One day Ben discovers that his grandmother is not as boring as he thought, in fact she is a world-renowned jewel thief called that Black Cat. She stopped short of her greatest robbery on account of Ben’s father being born and since then she has lived out a quiet life. With Ben’s encouragement she is talked back into the business of robbery and together they go after the greatest prize of all, the crown jewels.
Julia McKenzie, once “Shirley Valentine” (1989) plays granny in this film, with Reece Buttery playing young Ben. His parents are played by David Walliams and Miranda Hart, with Rob Brydon, Claudia Winkleman, Harish Patel, Robbie Williams, and Joanna Lumley all appearing too.
This TV film is one of many of Walliams’s kids’ books which seems to be syndicated to appear every Christmas and New Year in the UK. Despite being produced within the last century (at the time of writing this), it already feels old because it is written in a way that dates it to a particular era of linguistics that kids used. In the film Ben suggests his grandma should be “more gangsta“, and the use of language here dates to between 2005-2015 (at a stretch), beyond which, this kind of linguistic became ‘lame’. Basically, they suggest that speaking like “Ali G” is “cool” and “hip“, and that being a “G” is about throwing American gang signs and wearing “bling“.
On the surface this is a simple enough film which tries to enforce loving the entire family, but it is also not without it is flaws too. It encourages stealing and lying, it suggests that being condescending is ok, and when Ben ditches his dance partner it encourages viewers to not bother doing something if they do not want to – and furthermore, lie about it too and just do not justify or apologise for it. I recently watched another of David Walliams’s books to films recently – “Mr. Stink” (2012). This film fell into the same trap as that did – it was written for how an adult perceived kids to be, with what an adult thought they would want. Rather than what they actually wanted and how they really were. It tries too hard and stumbles. Yes, it’s a kid’s movie, but it’s predictable and not that entertaining – and I’m not judging this just by my own viewing pleasures too. I have sat down my young cousins in front of this and none of them were engrossed or entertained. They were both quick to jump up and down or get distracted by the family cat. I cannot rate or recommend this film that highly. Do yourself a favour and look out for a Roald Dahl or Dr Seuss feature instead.
Dir. Matt Lipsey – Runtime: 60 mins – Rating: U