Current Issue #488

Film Review: Four Kids and IT

Confusingly drawn from Jacqueline Wilson’s novel Four Children And It – which was itself drawn from E. Nesbit’s novel Five Children And It (?) – this has the distinction of being the worst adaptation of any version of the popular tale.

Heavy-handedly directed by Andy De Emmony, it’s the sort of bloated kiddie epic that many will insist should be beyond criticism because ‘It’s Just A Movie For Children’ but, as always, you have to ask: surely the littlies deserve better?

A ridiculous narrative set-up involves nice English chap David (Matthew Goode) and his American partner Alice (Paula Patton) bringing their surly kids together for a Cornwall holiday without (in a classic bit of bad movie parenting) properly warning them all. This means that Alice’s rebellious teen daughter ‘Smash’/Samantha (Ashley Aufderheide) and little Maudie (Ella-Mae Siame) are forced to deal with David’s offspring Robbie (Billy Jenkins) and awkward adolescent Ros (Teddie-Rose Malleson-Allen), and at first the sparks tediously fly.

The young ‘uns eventually wind up on a secluded beach where they meet an ancient FX creature called a Psammead (pronounced mostly as “Sammy-ay”), which looks like an obese orangutan/rabbit hybrid that speaks not in some Gollum-ish voice but the disconcerting Cockney lilt of Michael Caine. This poorly CG-ed critter can grant wishes that problematically only last until the sun goes down, and it’s, in turn, being stalked by posh local villain Tristan Trent, who’s overplayed horribly by Russell Brand.

If all that wasn’t plot enough, we also get into weirdly ‘meta’ territory as Ros starts referencing Nesbit’s novel and the quartet go back in time to meet the original five kids, a needless bit of post-modern inanity that should hopelessly baffle rugrats.

A hard slog at getting up to 110 minutes (including an end credits gag that won’t make sense to anyone under 20), this lacks the light, sweet touch necessary and instead alternately plods and thumps along. And yes, why exactly living English treasure Caine (87 this year) got involved is anyone’s guess. Perhaps he had one of his many hefty tax debts to pay?

Reviewer Rating

Four Kids And It is now screening at selected cinemas.

DM Bradley

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