Four Kids and it – film review

At Palace Electric
110 minutes, rated PG
Directed by Andy De Emmony

Alice and David take their children from previous relationships to meet each other for the first time.on a family holiday in a Cornwall cottage

The holiday takes an unexpected turn when the kids discover a magical (and very grumpy) creature, with the power to grant wishes, on the local beach. And then there’s the oddball Tristan, the local lord of the manor. The ensuing adventure brings the new siblings together and teaches them to accept their parents new-found happiness.

While one has to suspend disbelief in all fiction, I must say I find it hard to believe that a modern couple would choose to introduce their children to one another and announce their intention to create a blended family, without any prior warning or meetings, by going on a holiday to the Cornish coast. However, if we leave this aside, this movie is a pleasant and watchable family entertainment, most suitable for children from perhaps 8 to 12.

Cast: Paula Patton, Matthew Goode, Teddie Malleson-Allen, Ashley Aufderheide, Russel Brand and the voice of Michael Caine.

Based very loosely on the E. Nesbit English classic Five Children and It (1902) and referring to this novel as a plot device, Four Kids and It was adapted for the screen from Jacqueline Wilson’s 2012 bestseller Four Children and It by screenwriter Simon Lewis. Like its original, it is to some extent a cautionary tale in the be careful what you wish for vein. By making unwise wishes which last only until sundown, the children in the film do gradually learn the value of co-operation and develop a less selfish, more ream-focussed approach to life.

The stand-out heroine and leader of the tale is Ros, the bookish daughter of David who is reading the Nesbit book and takes it on this holiday, thus understanding who the Psammead is when they all meet by chance on the beach. She also comes up with the idea of visiting the original five children through time travel (despite the warnings of the Psammead) and later recognises her responsibility in causing the Psammead’s difficulty in the present day world.

There are plenty of linguistic laughs in the film for the adult audience and some pretty smart, funny lines that had us guffawing. Our visiting nine-year-old critic gave it the thumbs up for its blend of humour and seriousness and for the character interest, as well as some of the special effects antics.

As a morality tale, Four Kids and It certainly makes its point for the children in the audience and they will also find much to identify with in both the sibling rivalries and inter-dependence.

The unmistakable and wonderfully sardonic voice of Michael Caine for the Psammead is a winner and the children’s performances are creditable, especially that of Teddie Malleson-Allen as the thoughtful Ros. Coming to terms with family break-downs is not merely a contemporary issue, but it is a significant one and this film gently examines it through children’s eyes.

Wisdom is to be had through this youthful perspective and through the various utterances of the Psammead, who after all has seen a lot in his extraordinarily long lifetime, most of it salutary as a judgement on human beings.

The film coincides with school holidays around Australia and with cinemas opening somewhat with CVID-safe precautions, it would be an enjoyable outing for families, which could engender useful and interesting discussion afterwards.

Thanks to ned & co for enabling the previewing of this film.