He’s Got a License to Heal!
Guardian of the Highlands aka Sir Billi is an animated homage to star Sean Connery. This in itself is not a bad thing, however, it muddies up the works when you take a step back and examine the film.
Sir Billi (Sean Connery, Dr. No) is the self-proclaimed protector of the Scottish village of Catterness. He lives with his faithful goat, Gordon (Alan Cumming, The Good Wife), and the duo go into action when word reaches them of a young beaver and rabbit floating down the river to certain death.
That’s pretty much the gist of the story right there. Rescuing a beaver and rabbit from the river. Running parallel to that is the plotline that Officer McKenzie (Ford Kiernan) is bound and determined to find this same beaver and remove it from Scotland, as it’s the only one left from a mass relocation to Norway which went awry years ago.
Within the scarce story are many nods to all sorts of Connery’s former roles, including Connery himself quipping when he sees a sub, “Reminds me of another adventure” (The Hunt for Red October no doubt). The theme song is sung by Dame Shirley Bassey (Goldfinger) and the opening credits over which it’s played blatantly mimic a James Bond film’s iconic titles. The tagline of the movie is a play on the idea of Sean Connery as James Bond having a license to kill.
I recognize most of the references, which is all well and good. As an exercise in movie trivia the film succeeds. Except, who is this movie for? The target audience will have likely never seen any of the referenced movies, let alone know who Connery is, especially since he’s been off the screen as a human for so long (2003’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen). However the homage doesn’t stop with Connery. There’s a montage featuring recreations of iconic scenes from movies such as Rocky and An Officer and a Gentleman. What member of the single-digit-agers has seen either of those movies?
If this is supposed to be a movie for adult fans of Connery then it misses the boat by failing to have a more engaging story and sophisticated animation style to support what’s being told. I only get the barest glimpses of anyone’s backstories and nothing to indicate why anyone is obsessed with beavers, save a toss-away comment about their adverse effects on local fishing. Nor do I really understand why Sir Billi launches into action. Is he a veterinarian? He drives a Jeep with the words “Animal Rescue” on it but he relies on water from the Pirniefalls alone to cure the animals. What? Is it a magical waterfall?
Not to mention the main crisis of the story (if you can call it that) and the vilification of Officer McKenzie make no sense. In the beginning of the movie McKenzie is removing the beavers at the behest of the Scottish government. Dude is just doing his job. Not to mention when Bessie (our errant beaver) gets separated from the rest of the beavers she is heard repeating, “Where’s my mommy?” So why don’t I want her to go Norway and be reunited with her mom? Should I believe she’s found a happy home with the rabbits? Because it’s not really shown that way.
Let’s just chalk Guardian of the Highlands up as an experiment that did not come to fruition.
Speaking of falling short, I’m afraid the technical specs do that as well. The animation is rougher than I anticipated, with a palette highlighting intensities of color in unexpected places. The look is akin to a video game walk-through from about a decade ago. There’s a general lack of fluidity and clumsiness to the appendages which contribute to that gamer feeling. The video is a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer, standard fare. The audio is a bit better with a Dolby 5.1 track, however, I am surprised to read it’s so as the track itself certainly did not sound like it terms of richness of the soundscape. There are no special features.
If you’re a fan of Connery, search out something else. The power of his voice alone isn’t enough to compel me to recommend Guardian of the Highlands to anyone.