‘Billionaire Boy’ review: Very enjoyable, silly family fare

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Based on David Walliams’ book of the same name, Billionaire Boy is the inspiring story of one man’s quest to unleash his potential to become an exceptionally terrible person with the help of a miraculous windfall – or possibly the story of one boy’s discovery that wealth isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

We establish in the opening scenes that young ginger gentleman Joe (Elliot Sprakes), and his dad Len (John Thomson), are poor.

In almost Dickensian fashion, Len works for next to nothing in a loo roll factory, living a life of sad smiles and near-constant disappointment, wanting nothing more than to give his son a proper Christmas. A moment of inspiration leads him to create a new kind of toilet tissue (Bumfresh just sounds like a band name to me – I’d listen to them) which earns him an impressive 8-figure fortune.

Indulging in the kind of superficiality only money can buy, Len immediately trades up for a palatial country home, and all the accoutrements (and then some) that come with it. The trouble is, young Joe’s no happier for it; instead, he’s forced to hide his newfound wealth at school, dreading the disaster that would ensue if he were found out (which, inevitably, he is).

Meanwhile, Len’s gone from being a doting father to barely aware of his son, absorbed by greed and flashy material nonsense. It’s only when a major product scandal strips Len and Joe of their riches that Len comes to his senses, and recognises what Joe’s known all along: that wealth really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be after all.

As a tale that’s meant to be fairly transparently illustrative of what’s important in life (family, friends, definitely not helicopters) I can’t really gripe about Len’s personality 180 as soon as he comes into a fortune – it’s silly family fare (see also Walliams’ turn as a dinner lady who somehow obliviously serves up one barf-inducing meal after another) with plenty of heart.

Besides, Catherine Tate absolutely sparkles as Sapphire, acclaimed hand model and Len’s disinterested but avaricious love interest, and Rebecca Front is perfect as the stern but kind teacher, Miss Sharpe.

All in all, it’s a very enjoyable way to spend an hour collapsed on the sofa post-Christmas if you’ve got kids, or even if you’re over 30 and still watch kids’ television.


Aired at 7pm on Friday 1 January 2016 on BBC One.

> Buy the book on Amazon.

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> Read more by Sami Kelsh on her website.