It’s said that writing for children is harder than writing for adults, since they can be as discerning – if not more so – than their elders. The same goes for filmmaking, advice those behind one-dimensional animated feature Sir Billi (2012) were clearly not aware of. Written and director by husband and wife team Sascha and Tessa Hartmann, and featuring the voice talents of Sean Connery, Alan Cumming, Ruby Wax and Miriam Margolyes, Sir Billi will leave you speechless – though not for the right reasons. We begin with the lives of a young beaver and her adopted family of rabbits in peril from a ruthless animal-catcher.
It’s up to wily retired veterinarian Sir Billi (a typically gruff Connery) and his faithful sidekick Gordon the Goat (Cumming), with the help of the local villagers, to save their furry friends from a fate worse than death. Watching Sir Billi, you have to question what attracted those involved to such a project – and in particular, its lead voice star. Connery is one of cinema’s most respected actors, who in recent years has been notable by his absence from the big screen, making it all the more surprising that he agreed to feature in the film. One can only imagine that being a patriotic Scotsman, he was charmed by the fact that the production claims to be Scotland’s first animated feature, and promotes the country at every opportunity.
One borderline ‘clever touch’ – and a clear nod to Connery’s past career – is the film’s opening title sequence, which plays out with Bond-ish silhouettes shimmying to a backing track by Shirley Bassey. However, this is soon overshadowed by the film’s risible storyline and cringe-inducing accents of the cast, as well as the shoddy standard of its animation. In an age where even the most mediocre short cartoons look fantastic, something which looks like a nineties video game was never going to pass muster with today’s savvy kids. Compared with Disney Pixar’s far superior Highland fling Brave (2012), Sir Billi looks positively amateur, proving that children’s entertainment should be left to those willing to treat young audiences with the respect they deserve.