David Walliams’ family-friendly films -
perfect for a BritBox kid’s movie night
Comedy actor David Walliams is most famous for Little Britain, Come Fly with Me and (my absolute favourite) Big School, but he’s also a best-selling children’s author. In fact, his funny stories have become so popular with the little ones that Walliams has been hailed as the new Roald Dahl for the 21st century.
Several of his successful books have been adapted for telly by the BBC, so if you are looking for some brilliant films for the kids this summer, you’ll find two of Walliams’ funniest on Britbox:
This adaptation of Walliams’ novel is the story of 12-year old Joe and his dad Len, who get rich quick by inventing a new toilet roll - Bumfresh. Their sudden wealth gives them everything they could ever want - or does it?
The cast includes the fabulous Catherine Tate (who also starred with Walliams in Big School) as a glam 40-something hand model and Len’s new gold-digging girlfriend. Star Wars and Harry Potter actor Warwick Davis appears as himself in the role of Len and Joe’s celebrity butler. Opera-lovers will also enjoy a special cameo performance by Bryn Terfel. And look out for David Walliams playing Mrs Trafe, a dinner lady at Joe’s school who’s so not good at cooking.
In a BBC interview, Walliams said, “I am thrilled we have put together an all-star cast for this adaptation. The script is even bigger and better than the book”.
Billionaire Boy is a whimsical, heartfelt story about what’s really important in life. Not too moralistic or preachy, but there’s a big lesson to learn between the laughs.
Another Walliams’ novel adapted for telly, now streaming on BritBox.
The impressive cast includes Downton Abbey's Hugh Bonneville as a rather posh tramp befriended by a little girl called Chloe. Sheridan Smith is magnificent as Chloe’s snobby, overbearing, wannabe-MP mum, while Johnny Vegas plays a former rockstar turned henpecked husband and dad to Chloe and her overachieving sister. Once again, David Walliams makes a guest appearance, this time as the smarmy Prime Minister.
When the lonely Chloe invites the vagrant Mr. Stink to move into her garden shed, she soon sniffs a whiff of mystery around a man who thinks one bath a year is more than enough. It turns out this smelly squatter has a few secrets up his stinky sleeve.
I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as some of Walliams’ other stories, but it’s still a touching tale about empathy and friendship. Other themes include bullying, egotism, sibling rivalry and homelessness, but in the usual kid-friendly-Walliams’ style, these are sensitively wrapped in gentle humor. Overall, it reminded me of Roald Dahl’s The BFG.
Both of these made-for-TV movies have a bit of a Christmassy feel, but not too much, meaning these films can still be enjoyed by the whole family all year round.
Also recommended - my personal favourite of all Walliams kid’s stories, available on DVD and in paperback:
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Brits in America -
Living the Dream on BritBox
(This review contains spoilers)
As we love anything starring Philip Glenister (who could forget the infamous Gene Hunt in Life on Mars ?), hubby and I were really excited to discover Living the Dream on BritBox. And having binge-watched season 1 already, we can honestly say this is the best telly we’ve seen in ages.
Living the Dream is a Brit comedy series following the Pemberton family from rainy Yorkshire as they sell up and move across the pond to sunny Florida. Like many real-life expats, the fictional Pembertons are thrilled to discover that living in America means a big house, a big car, a big bed and a big refrigerator.
“I love this fridge!” Mal Pemberton (Glenister) gushes in the shiny new kitchen of his massive new home.
Jen, the mum played by Lesley Sharp, grudgingly agrees to blend in with Stateside suburbia by getting all glammed-up, Desperate Housewife-style. And the teenage kids get their first taste of American high school, where football and soccer are two different sports and the Pledge of Allegiance is a daily requirement. Yes, this is the world of country clubs, evangelical churches and purity pacts, as well as mosquitoes, gators, vampire weddings and tornadoes.
Mal and Jen find themselves running a rundown caravan (RV trailer) park, home to an eclectic group of eccentric residents who are not exactly thrilled to meet their new owners. The redneck manager informs Mal, “I ain’t workin’ for no Australians!” as he promptly quits on day one. And due to the terms of their investor visa, if they fail to make a success of the park, the Pemberton’s immigration status will be revoked, sending them back to Blighty before you can say “Bless their hearts”. No pressure then.
This is a very funny and heartwarming tale of culture clashes and stiff-upper-lip Britishness as Mal and his family fight to make their American dream come true. The cast also includes Kevin Nash who plays the giant Troy (standing at an intimidating 6ft 10, Troy revels in towering over Mal) and Jimmy Akingbola (who previously worked with Glenister on Big School) as a fellow Brit investor. And for anyone wondering about the filming location, there’s a little bit of fake news going on here: season 1 was actually shot near beautiful Savannah, so it’s really Georgia pretending to be Florida. (Eagle-eyed viewers will spot the distinctive Talmadge Memorial Bridge in several scenes, which is a big giveaway.)
But as we watched, the Georgia connection wasn’t the only thing that resonated with hubby and I. As Brit expats living in the Deep South ourselves, there was so much of the Pemberton’s experience we could relate to. From constantly getting into the wrong side of the car to compliments on our “Australian” accents and the funny looks we get for using a knife and fork at the same time, this was all so spookily familiar. And just like Mal and Jen, hubby and I often have to pinch ourselves: even after all these years, we still can’t quite believe we are actually Living the (American) Dream.
The final episode of season 1 culminates with the Pembertons and the trailer park residents together singing an amusing mash-up of God Save the Queen and My Country Tis of Thee. A fitting tribute to Anglo-American relations and the perfect end to this brilliant first series.
Highly recommended for expats
(and everyone else).
Living the Dream
seasons 1 & 2
streaming on BritBox
Living and loving life
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