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Four Kids and It - Review

Four Kids and It

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 2 out of 5

THE presence of Sir Michael Caine, even just in vocal form, helps to add some magic to Sky Cinema’s adaptation of Jacqueline Wilson’s Four Kids and It. But in most other respects, this is a distinctly underwhelming slice of family entertainment.

In book form, Wilson’s novel was, in itself, inspired by Edith Nesbit’s Five Children And It, which was originally published in 1902 but followed largely the same format.

In this film version, new couple Alice (Paula Patton) and David (Matthew Goode) take their less than enthusiastic children on a family holiday to a Cornish cottage to meet each other for the first time, only to find that the kids aren’t ready for their parents to move on from their past relationships.

However, the holiday takes an unexpected turn when, on the local beach, the kids discover a magical but grumpy Psammead (Caine), a creature with the power to grant magical wishes. The rules are simple: it’s one wish per day and the wish in question expires once the sun sets.

As the kids play around with this newfound magic, they begin to develop an appreciation for each other, while attracting the unwanted attention of a local aristocratic oddball named Tristan (Russell Brand), who wants to capture the Psammead for his own gain.

To be fair, Four Kids and It is a relatively inoffensive, unassuming adaptation of a novel idea that has proved timeless. It will amuse the youngest members of the family and has solid values underpinning it.

But director Andy De Emmony struggles to invest much magic in proceedings, allowing things to unfold in a wholly predictable manner. What’s more, his pacing feels slow and the running time (at 1hr and 45 mins) overly generous.

The four kids – led by Ashley Aufderheide’s Smash and Teddie-Rose Malleson-Allen’s Ros – struggle to endear themselves beyond their bickering, self-centred attitudes, while single parents David (Goode) and Alice (Patton) go through the frustrated motions without ever managing to strike any real chemistry with each other. It makes their own relationship difficult to root for.

Brand, on the other hand, has some funny throw-away lines but can’t seem to decide whether to play things overly sinister or awkwardly kooky, and his performance feels awkward and misplaced.

It’s only really Caine who stands out, his world-weary Psammead bringing the type of charm and charisma (the right mix of grumpy and empathetic) that the rest of the film subsequently finds itself screaming out for. Four Kids and It is at its best whenever the Psammead comes on-screen.

But while the kids may be mildly amused at some of the more juvenile humour, adults may find themselves counting down the minutes to the inevitably touchy-feely conclusion, fully aware of the lessons that are being imparted.

Four Kids And It is the type of film that makes you appreciate the effortless magic that the likes of Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks manage to sprinkle so regularly all the more.

Certificate: PG
Running time: 106mins
UK Release Date: Available exclusively on Sky Cinema now