After having a hideous time on the set of The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Sean Connery said he’d never make a movie again. However he’s come out of retirement to lend his voice to Sir Billi, presumably attracted by the fact that this is Scotland’s first feature-length animated movie (Connery is, after all, determined to be the most Scottish person in the world, despite the fact he hasn’t lived there for decades). He might also have liked the fact it’s a film about an octogenarian.
Sir Billi (Connery) is an aging vet in the Scottish highlands who’s made it his mission in life to rescue animals. Not everyone feels the same way as he does, especially about beavers, which have been banned from the land. However one young one, Bessie Boo, has accidentally escaped into the wild, and there’s a policeman hot on her tale.
On the day a potentially wildlife-killing dam is due to open, Sir Billi and his goat, Gordon (Alan Cumming), must spring into action to save the life of Bessie Boo and the other (talking) animals that live in the area.
I really wish I’d liked Sir Billi more, but it unfortunately doesn’t work. As you might expect for a first time effort, the animation isn’t particularly impressive (indeed some TV CGI series have been animated better), with a tendency for the slightly plastic-looking characters to appear as if they’ve been stuck on top of the admittedly very pretty backgrounds. However that’s very easy to overlook and I doubt many kids will mind.
More problematic is the plot, which has a tendency to meander to the point that it’s often difficult to follow exactly what the stakes are and how certain events affect them. I can imagine some kids asking their parents for an explanation of what’s going on, and the adults having to cobble together what they think is the important thing, even if they’re unsure. It doesn’t help that there are a number of characters that seem unnecessary but are presented as important. Ultimately they just hang around confusing things. I also wish they’d made Bessie Boo the beaver a bit more of a rounded character, as while it might sound mean, her constant crying about her missing mother gets annoying (she’s been lost in the Highlands for five years, so you might think she’d have shut up about it for five seconds by now).
There’s a slight sense that this would have worked better as a TV series, or at least it needed a script with a better throughline so it felt more like a complete, cohesive movie in its own right. Instead it jumps from one thing to another and back again with seemingly little rhyme nor reason.
And call me a politically correct idiot, but I also couldn’t help but feel the movie could have done without moments that smack of ogly sexism (particularly that large breasts are the main thing to look for in a woman), and which suggest physical violence is a good solution to a problem.
To give Sir Billi its due, it does show promise and suggests that Scotland’s next animated movie could be a lot better. As it stands, the movie may divert kid’s attention for a while, but even they may get a bit bored of it before the end, while parents may feel uncomfortable at its tendency to objectify women.
Overall Verdict: There are some fun things about Sir Billi and it’s nice to hear Sean Connery’s voice, but the film is too meandering and muddled. There’s both too much going on and yet too little at the same time that really pulls you in.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac