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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 19 February 2009
I found this delightful cinematic gem while searching for movies starring Matthew Goode, one of the best young English actors today. He is perfect here as the oldest son in this singular family: handsome, droll, hedonistic, supercilious, fully flexing his considerable comedic muscles.

This is a group of superb actors playing off each other, generous to a fault, and having a ball. The fun they have is sublimely infectious.

The movie is a vibrant and winning portrayal of Gerald Durrell's memoir of his family, just prior to WWII, living on Corfu. Durrell, who became a leading zoologist and wrote 37 books, cut his chops on Corfu, scoping out scorpions and other forms of wildlife dangerous and benign. He was about thirteen, with an older sister and two older brothers, equally quirky, individual, and funny.

His sister discovers boys - and men - wreaking much havoc on the island. His older brother, played perfectly by adorable Russell Tovey (History Boys), has a mania for hunting and shooting. And Larry (author Lawrence Durrell), played by Goode, is an obsessed writer who smokes, lounges about, and poses. He invites an amusing group of eccentric friends, including author Henry Miller, who writes in the nude and considers clothing the last refuge of the bourgeoisie. His family find them somewhat less entertaining.

Their summer is also populated by other characters with whom they interact: two British tutors, a Turkish boyfriend, the family's Greek mentor, housemaid, and a customs agent who confiscates lingerie and linen.

Imelda Staunton, as the mother of this brood, holds the whole mess together and has never been more enjoyable.

Great episodic story, beautiful photography, clever editing, highly imaginative music, smart script, delightful acting. The 85 minutes fly by and leave us wanting much more of this endearing family.
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on 7 September 2010
I spotted this by chance and sent off for it straightaway - I've been a fan of the book for thirty years and wondered how I'd missed it before. When I started watching it I still thought, incorrectly, that I'd purchased a tv series. I started to become suspicious when one much loved scene after another flashed by without being developed at all.

How can you fail with such brilliant raw material? In the book the characters leap out of the page; Larry is a particularly brilliant creation. The dialogue is sparkling and laugh out loud funny. A succession of brilliant comic episodes. And Durrell's beautiful descriptive passages should be easy to evoke by being filmed in Corfu - turn the camera on and stand back. Somehow someone has managed to completely cock up a fail-safe formula.

Two problems: A hour and a half is too short to cram in all the episodes. The book has no plot. It is a series of extremely comic episodes. In this film the episodes have been included simply because they are in the original with no attempt to develop them. They are just rushed through, truncated and rendered pointless. One humorous situation after another falls flat.

The other problem is the bizarre decision by the writer to rewrite the characters: Larry and mother in particular. In the original, Larry Durrell is mercurial, irrascible, unreasonable, selfish, witty and extremely funny whilst Mother is a dotty widow barely keeping up with her children. Here, someone has decided in a fit of post-feminist revisionist nonsense to treat this as a voyage of self-discovery for Mother who becomes a 'strong character', facing down her eldest son who has had his best lines removed and is reduced to mugging, smirking and having the odd childish table-thumping tantrum.

What's the point? If the source text is good enough to film, then film it for its strengths. If you want to make some sort of message then write your own book. But don't take an absolute classic like this, rewrite the characters and the whole nature of the thing. I can't understand why this has got so many rave reviews. They are completely misleading.

If you've never read the book, or seen the '87 version then it might well be a perfectly enjoyable diversion: The cast is good to look at and so is the scenery. But it very very short of the original.
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on 21 August 2008
Warm and funny and slightly touching (shed a few tears at the end), in fact I've acquired a copy for my collection along with the 1987 version, this is actually one of the rare examples when a short adaptation works just as well.
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on 18 January 2016
Service excellent.
Have watched this DVD time and time again with friends and have laughed every time - Love it! Whenever I feel a little blue I pop this DVD on and have a jolly good laugh, always works, plus the ambiance of the whole film is quite magical. 10/10
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on 11 June 2013
If you are considering buying this without having read the book then perhaps it will pass muster, and give an hour and a half of entertainment.
However, if you HAVE read the book, I suggest you pass it over in favour of the 1987 version (2 disc) DVD, starring Hannah Gordon and Brian Blessed. This is far more faithful to the written word and flows delightfully from one riotous episode of the Durrell family's adventure on Corfu to the next. The characters are more developed and the pace of life on a Greek island in the 1930's portrayed exceptionally well. Sheer bliss to watch with a young family on a wet, wintry afternoon!
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on 21 July 2016
The best mini-series I have seen in many a year.

Staunton is perfect as the long-suffering mother. And the director brings home how attached the Durrells became to their island in the Med.

Magic! Do see it!!
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on 1 March 2010
Saw this on the Tele a few months ago. I had previously read the book as a child. Had to buy it to add to my collection. Oh what a joy. Funny ecentric, original, very charming without wanting to stick two fingers down your throat. Family Sunday afternoon niceness "like wot we did" when we where children like Gerald Durrel and went out all day, fell into swamps, did dangerous things and came home when we where hungry.
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on 4 December 2014
We all know the story, and there are several versions. They original book rambles, and the film does, too. However, it captures the essence of the original and the lush locations are convincing, the characters more or less plausible, and the animals always good fun. However, where is a blu-ray version?
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on 13 August 2013
Loved the book and didn't realise there was a film until I came across it whilst channel hopping. Enjoyed it so much i wanted my own copy. Brilliantly cast, acted and directed; won't be passing this one on any time soon.
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on 29 March 2016
This film is a firm family favourite. It is funny, touching and charmingly innocent and one of the very few films that I have actually looked forward to watching more that once (many, many times in fact over the years.)
The essence and spirit of the characters is cleverly developed; the scenery is simply spell binding; sound track is memorable and it makes us laugh out loud every time we watch it. A gem.
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