The Adventures Of Greyfriars Bobby Review

In Edinburgh in the mid-1800s, policeman John Grey uses his little Skye Terrier dog in his patrolling of the city's streets. Not just useful at sniffing out trouble, little Bobby proves his worth every market day in his helping Grey to keep the livestock in their pens, often being rewarded with a mutton pie for his saving of the stalls. But life amongst the desperate can be dangerous and after disturbing a burglar, John Grey is murdered and left to die in the street, an injured Bobby by his side.

Despite seeing his master buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard, the graveyard near to Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh, Bobby refuses to be parted from John Grey, spending day and night on the recently-turned soil of his grave. At first, Ewan (Oliver Golding) tries to care for him and Brown, who tends Greyfriars Kirkyard, escorts him off the church grounds every time he's spotted but Bobby keeps coming back and soon he's doing such a good job at keeping down the rats that they, and the Reverend Lee (Greg Wise), decide to let him stay. But there's trouble coming as Johnson (Ronald Pickup) and Smithie (Sean Pertwee), who are wealthy donators to the church, take a disliking to the wee dog and set themselves against him. But having served John Grey when he was alive, Bobby's not about to disappoint him in death...

I'm, well, not a dog person. Other than Alsatians, that is, which, being a child of the seventies and in spite of Dobermans, Pitbull Terriers and the like, still have something of the badass about them. On the other hand, there are wheezy bulldogs, horrible yappy Jack Russells and brandy-bearing St Bernards. Every other kind of dog will, at some time, dry-hump your leg, sniff one's crotch as though there were a great lump of meat within it - of course, that's something that a lucky few of us do have - and will end its days farting looking confused, with one often being as a result of the other. On the contrary, I'm more of a cat person, happier with their sneaky, selfish ways than a dog's friendliness.

I can't, then, quite understand Greyfriars Bobby, a dog who remained by his master's side even after his death. Where I'm all for loyalty, such devotion does seem rather daft and were it not for the local clergy and the groundskeeper, Greyfriars Bobby would have died a lonely and very hungry death atop John Grey's grave. That didn't happen, though, and the legend of Greyfriars Bobby grew from the old town of Edinburgh to become famous around the world. Not being from Edinburgh, I can't say that the name of Greyfriars Bobby meant very much to me before this but the film does seem to portray most of the events in the tale - the death of Grey, Bobby's place in Greyfriars Kirkyard and the intervention of the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Sir William Chambers (Christopher Lee), to save Bobby from a death by poisoning at the hands of the dog catchers.

One can't help but think, however, that director John Henderson has expanded upon the slim tale of Greyfriars Bobby to produce his film. Just as he did with The Magical Legend of the Leprechauns in 1999 - a piece of cod-Irishness that's as much fun as being hit over the head by a shillelagh for an hour - Henderson lays on the Scottishness so thickly that The Adventures of Greyfriars Bobby is in danger of being suffocated under the weight of it. Like being fed haggis and whisky for a week, one soon tires of the amount of tartan, neeps'n'tatties and various Scottish actors saying, "Och...wee Bobby!" This wouldn't be quite so objectionable were this an uplifting film but there's an awful lot of misery to wade through before that point. Bobby not only sees off John Grey but Ewan's mother Ada Adams (Kirsty Mitchell) in a house fire. Even Ewan ends up in an orphanage, suggesting that even to be associated with Bobby may not be entirely healthy for one's prospect.

Of course, it all ends happily with Bobby seeing off the threats of Johnson and Smithie to end his days by his master's side. Before that, there's comedy from Tam (Ardal O'Hanlon), some PG-rated scares and tension as Bobby is swept into a river and threatened by some leaping salmon. None of this is terribly exciting and neither is it paced particularly well, leaving it a film unlikely to hold the attention of any child with the exception of those who are very, very fond of dogs. And yet, even then, The Adventures of Greyfriars Bobby gets the breed of dog quite wrong, choosing to replace the actual Skye Terrier with a West Highland Terrier. Not, I add, that I can tell the difference but it demonstrates how this film is a less-than-accurate account of Greyfriars Bobby. Those with an actual interest in the tale may prefer to pass on this film in favour of an actual visit to Edinburgh.


If you have ever wondered what Edinburgh might look like were it lit by a Caribbean sun, The Adventures of Greyfriars Bobby will be for you as it appears a world way from the steel-grey skies that usually drizzle over the city. Even for such a recent film, this is an unimpressive transfer, being soft, misty and with such a bizarre set of colours and you might find yourself wondering if a hallucinogenic has secreted itself via the DVD. The print is clean, however, and pleasant enough to watch, as one might expect of, regardless of how unlikely it sounds, such a picture-postcard view of the slums of Edinburgh. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track isn't bad but is very low on impressive effects, using the rear channels to add ambience to the film rather than offer any memorable moments.


This DVD release contains only a Trailer (1m58s), thereby missing the opportunity to tell the real story of Greyfriars Bobby as opposed to that of the film.


Not really the kind of DVD that I can ever imagine anyone owning, The Adventures of Greyfriars Bobby is more a film for you and your children to enjoy on a Bank Holiday Afternoon, when the rain never ceases and despite there a choice of some hundred channels, it's either this or yet another interminable Win, Lose or Draw on Channel 4. And yet, it's too dull to hold the attentions of even such a desperate audience as that. All but the most ardent of dog-lovers may wish to pass.

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