The Boy in the Dress, TV review: David Walliams' Boxing Day treat is a celebration of being different

The comedian of Little Britain's 'I'm a lady' fame explores gender identity in a subtler and more entertaining way

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Children’s telly can get a bit samey at this time of year with the regular fodder of family animated films and festive specials filling up the schedule. There are only so many Disney movies you can watch before resorting to a DVD marathon of The Killing.

Thankfully The Boy in the Dress is a heart-warming alternative to the more syrupy, cinnamon-scented children’s Christmas programming - making it appealing to both kids and grownups alike.

Adapted from comedian David Walliams’ children’s book of the same name, this tale explores gender identity in a subtle and entertaining way. Unlike the crasser “But I’m a lady!” skits of Little Britain that Walliams is better known for, The Boy in the Dress is simply charming. Dennis (Billy Kennedy) likes wearing fabulous dresses but he’s also a star footballer – there is no judgement.

 

Ironically, the only element that really jars and detracts in this hour-long programme is Walliams’ own cameo as the over-the-top stand-in referee that panders to all kinds of stereotypes, which is not what The Boy in the Dress is about.

The young cast are delightful. Kennedy gives a nice turn as Dennis, the cross-dressing boy of the title. The thesps (Tim McInnerny, Meera Syal and Jennifer Saunders) also give us a good laugh but it’s Inbetweeners star James Buckley who really stands out among the famous faces. There’s no mention of “clunge” at any point and yet he’s surprisingly funny as Mr Norris, the bored PE and occasional history teacher. It turns out that there could be life after Jay and those cringe-worthy Orange Expendables ads after all. 

And who didn’t love Kate Moss’ (naturally) fabulous, if brief, appearance via the cover of Vogue and Dennis’ daydream? Her dialogue is kept to a minimum – perhaps to maintain the illusion of her fashion goddess status – but she does what she does best.

The Boy in the Dress is all fairly innocuous and light, never delving too deeply – and we’d expect nothing else for Boxing Day kids’ telly. The neat little twist involving headmaster Mr Hawthorn (Tim McInnerny) helps to tie up any loose ends and brings the story full circle. This is a jubilant celebration of being different and accepting people for who they are.

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