Chitty Flies Again with David Walliams (4 stars)

Chitty Flies Again with David Walliams

Children's author, Channel swimmer and Chitty enthusiast hopes to make dreams come true for himself and some primary school kids

Ever since he was a little boy, David Walliams has been a huge fan of the 1968 movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. He loves the dancing chimney sweeps, Dick Van Dyke's cockerney accent, and the creepy old Child Catcher. But above all, he can't get that darned car out of his mind. It's a fine looking motor, there's no doubt about that, but its real USP, of course, is that it can actually fly. What little David always wanted was to see Chitty take to the skies in real life. Unlike most little boys, he's grown up to be in the position of getting his pet project broadcast as part of Channel 4's festive scheduling. And frankly, it's a genuine delight.

Walliams does a neat line in grouchy grumpiness throughout as the man he has asked to get the car off the ground, aircraft engineer Tony Hoskins, is struggling somewhat with his mission. First they start off with a replica car of the same weight (really heavy) but that is an immediate non-starter. Then they strip it all back and chip holes out of it to make it more flight-friendly. Still it's not quite right. David gets more grouchy and grumpy, and Tony wears a progressively more anxious demeanour even while he's smiling through (perhaps he knows the bad Walliams mood is just an act?) But will it all come good in the end? No spoilers here, but come on, you can fill in the gaps, right?

Along the way Walliams visits a primary school full of enthusiastic kids who are putting on a production of Chitty (Wayne Sleep transforms into the Child Catcher during auditions for that part), plus we get an anecdote about the real meaning of the title (it's rude). And we hear about the original novel's author, none other than Ian Fleming, who was bored with churning out bestselling Bond boilerplate, and diversified briefly to tackle children's literature. No matter what he writes, Fleming seems to be the man with the golden touch. And then the moment of truth arrives. Will Walliams have his dream come true or will it join the ranks of crushing disappointments many have felt during 2020? But this is television. Surely telly will save the day, right? Right?

Channel 4, Friday 1 January, 7.30pm.