After the success of "Billy Elliot", Lee Hall could write a shopping list and someone would film it. Something similar has happened with "Gabriel & Me", an adaptation of a radio play Hall wrote (before "Billy") called "I Luv You Jimmy Spud".
What worked on the wireless is distinctly lacking on the big screen. Part of the trouble is the jarring mixture of tragedy and fantasy. Eleven-year-old Geordie scamp Jimmy (Landless) turns to Billy Connolly's hippy Angel Gabriel because his father (Iain Glen) has lung cancer.
More damaging, however, is the fatal miscasting. With his black eyeliner and nail polish, Connolly must be the campest angel in the heavenly firmament, while Glen is too robust to be convincing as the doomed dad. Worst of all is Landless himself, who possesses little of Jamie Bell's charm and sports a thick Sunderland accent that is often unintelligible.
You have to wonder what was going through Hall's mind when he dreamed up one scene where Jimmy - clad in an angel dress made of pillow feathers - dives off a crane into a dock to rescue a drowning boy scout. Jimmy then returns home and no one even notices the fact he's soaking wet and dressed like a girl.
Alan Almond's widescreen photography brings a redeeming grandeur to the lacklustre material, and David Bradley offers staunch support as Jimmy's kindly grandfather. But these are scant compensations in yet another ill-conceived homegrown stinker.