My Family & Other Animals (2005)

Starring: Eugene Simon, Imelda Staunton, Omid Djalili, Tamzin Merchant, Matthew Goode, Russell Tovey and Chris Langham
2 Entertain Ltd
RRP: 15.99
Certificate: 15
Available 23 April 2007

Escaping the dreary weather of 1930s England, the eccentric Durrell family uproots and ship themselves off to the sun drenched Greek island of Corfu. With the help of larger-than-life local taxi-driver Spiro, the family move to a succession of different villas dotted across the landscape. While Margo fights off the advances of would-be suitors, gun crazy Leslie blasts the island's bird life to smithereens and overbearing intellectual Larry invites a stream of artistic types to stay, young Gerald explores the glorious scenery and the wildlife it has to offer. Watching one sort of the animal kingdom in their natural habitat allows Gerald to learn more incisively about the habits of an altogether different group: his own family...

My Family & Other Animals (2005) is based on the book by Gerald Durrell. A light-hearted, made for TV movie, the story follows the Durrell family who move to Corfu, apparently on a whim, and then proceed to move house whenever the mood takes them.

I thought it a little strange that the BBC should remake this story - there was a 1987 TV series starring Hannah Gordon and Brian Blessed that was pretty entertaining. This adaptation is pretty shallow - with all of the Durrell family being caricatures. I never felt as those I connected with anyone other than young Gerald. It was though the writer, in a desperate attempt to not alienate those in the audience with below average intelligence, was concentrating more on laughs than actual character development.

So, it didn't come as much of a surprise to learn that Simon Nye, who wrote Men Behaving Badly (one of my all time favourite comedy shows) adapted this version. Without doing an injustice to the god of comedy, Nye has a lot of strong points in his writing, but deep and interesting character development isn't one of them. Too little, I thought, was done with both Gerald's mother and biologist Theodore (played by Chris Langham). Even the part of Spiro (beautifully played by Omid Djalili) was under used, which was a crying shame as Djalili was one of the best things about this production.

The soundtrack is a little too intrusive at times. You know a soundtrack isn't doing its job once you notice it's there. And you'll be hard pressed to ignore it. In fact, it was so overbearing in places that I started to wonder whether the director wasn't sure that the audience would get the emotions he was trying to convey in certain scenes. Therefore, by turning up the music, even the most lowbrow viewer would be able to spot the comedy moments.

There are no extras at all on this release, which is a shame. While the £15.99 price tag is welcome, I would have paid a few extra pounds for an audio commentary and some behind the scenes footage. It would have been interesting to know if they actually filmed anywhere near where the Durrell family actually lived, or what other aspects of the book they faithfully recreated.

It would seem that I'm not the only one who is a little confused as to why this story has been refilmed. A lot of the online stores are listing this as the 1987 TV series starring Hannah Gordon and Brian Blessed - even though the catalogue number and release date matched this release.

While enjoyable this is far from an essential purchase. Great production values are let down by a shallow reworking of the original source material.

Nick Smithson

Buy this item online
We compare prices online so you get the cheapest deal!
Click on the logo of the desired store below to purchase this item.

£10.98 (Amazon.co.uk)
£11.99 (Play.com)
£10.99 (HMV.co.uk)
£11.39 (Sendit.com)
£11.99 (Bensons-world.co.uk)
£10.72 (Thehut.com)

All prices correct at time of going to press.