thu 09/07/2020

Four Kids and It review – a family friendly yarn that needs more magic | reviews, news & interviews

Four Kids and It review – a family friendly yarn that needs more magic

Four Kids and It review – a family friendly yarn that needs more magic

Jacqueline Wilson’s contemporary update is a so-so Blytonesque adventure

With over one hundred books to her name and several hugely popular TV spin-offs, including the Tracy Beaker adventures, Jacqueline Wilson takes a no-nonsense approach to children’s fiction that reflects the realities of jigsaw families, mental and divorce. In 2012, in something of a detour from the rest of her work, she wrote a sequel of sorts to E. Nesbit’s beloved magical children’s classic, Five Children and It.  

Nesbit’s book has been adapted a myriad of times, including the charming 1990s BBC version and the less successful 2004 take with Eddie Izzard. It’s a familiar story, but in Wilson’s (and now director Andy De Emmony’s) hands, the title has been tweaked to become Four Kids and It. Michael Caine as 'It'This time it emerges as a cherry-cheeked family friendly movie, set on the Cornish coast. The stakes are low and there’s just enough slapstick and tomfoolery to keep things entertaining. Nevertheless, it lacks the magic sparkle needed to compare with other British adventures of a magical bent like Kirk Jones’ Nanny McPhee.  

De Emmony is an odd choice of director, given his background on comedies such as Spitting Image and Red Dwarf. Despite this, he succeeds in creating a perfectly serviceable family adventure that’s likely to go down well with young children currently sharing the house with mums and dads who have co-opted the living room into a makeshift office.

David (Matthew Goode), a recent divorcee and father of two, has secretly been dating American and fellow single parent, Alice (Paula Patton). Now the time has come for their respective offspring to meet. So, they pack their bags and head to the seaside. Unsurprisingly it’s a disaster. Alice’s eldest, Smash (Ashley Aufderheide), loathes England and want to go live with her dad. Meanwhile, David’s daughter Ros (Teddie-Rose Malleson-Allen) is plotting to reunite her mum and dad. The younger two, Robbie (Billy Jenkins) and the much younger Maudie (Ellie-Mae Siame), try to avoid the crossfire between their older siblings. 

In this situation of domestic disquiet, the children stumble on a Psammead, a mythical wish-granting troll (voiced by Michael Caine) that resembles a green-husked conker with spaniel ears. Caine is surprisingly good as the curmudgeonly creature. Less well-suited is Russell Brand as the villain of the piece, an eccentric lord-of-the-manor who wants the Psammead for his own dastardly ends. 

De Emmony’s take is far removed from the knickerbockers and petticoats of Nesbit’s Edwardian England. Like Wilson’s book, the film works hard to show the tribulations of single parenting and children coming to terms with their parent’s divorces. It works best when dealing with the family drama, less so when it comes to the magic and mayhem. Still, it’s a chirpy tale that will entertain the young whilst their parents get on with scrubbing the bathroom or any other household chores.

@JosephDAWalsh

The stakes are low and there’s just enough slapstick and tomfoolery to keep things entertaining

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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