Four Kids And It


Reviewed by: Jane Fae

Five Kids And It
"It adds useful continuity to the psammead canon."

Stuck for ways to keep your darling kiddliwinks occupied during the lockdown? If they like film – and especially if they like film with a little bit of magic – Four kids and It, based on a book by Jacqueline Wilson and directed by Andy De Emmony, will distract them for at least an hour and a half. If you like magic, and are not self-isolating, then perhaps you, too, can join in the fun.

And best of all, this went straight to broadcast, so no need even to leave your home. This is the story of how four children on holiday in Cornwall – Ros (Teddie-Rose Malleson-Allen), Smash (Ashley Aufderheide), Robbie (Billy Jenkins) and Maudie (Ellie-Mae Siame) head down to the beach, where they meet the psammead - a sand fairy with the power to grant wishes. No wish can last longer than a day and the more selfish the wish, the more likely it is to backfire in some way.

Copy picture

But wait. Wait! What do you mean: “by Jacqueline Wilson”? Surely the adventures of the children and the magical psammead are well-documented in the original story (and sequels) published from 1902 onwards by E Nesbit, author, also, of children's smash hit The Railway Children. Well, yes, this is true. But Wilson has updated the story for the modern age, converting it into something that her regular readers will perhaps consider less twee, more relevant. I'll get back to that in a moment.

Thus unlike the original, in which all five children are from the same family, here they are part of what is euphemistically referred to as a “blended family”. Ros' dad David (Matthew Goode) and Smash's mum Alice (Paula Patton) are both separated from their former partners, causing immense angst to their respective daughters, not helped by the fact that the first the girls know of this new romance is when they arrive at the holiday cottage.

Nul points to David and Alice for (in)sensitive parenting. Though, of course, this has the useful side-effect of setting up loads of fireworks in the first half of the film courtesy of teenage strops and misplaced attempts to re-unite the disunited. In this sense, the over-riding theme is very much about relationships and growing up and moving on.

A second and parallel plot element is provided by down-at-heel Lord of the local manor Tristan Trent (eccentrically mugged by Russell Brand), whose grandfather learnt of the psammead many years ago – in 1902, no less – and has spent the years since on a fruitless hunt for the creature. Because the original book, dontcha know, was not just children's tale, but a true history of events and therefore plays a significant role in the present story.

Brand does not quite twirl his moustache but you get the impression he wants to and his increasingly manic attempts to capture the sand fairy, as well as offer a pastiche on the more glamorous Bond villains, add an element of useful comedy to a film that might otherwise be a little too angsty.

And last but by no means least, who is this pot-bellied, down-at-heel, bewhiskered shambling creature with the voice of Michael Caine? Yes: the psammead is voiced but not – unless make-up and prosthetics has now become very advanced – physically played by the renowned British treasure.

On the whole, I enjoyed this. It adds useful continuity to the psammead canon...and Wilson is far from the first author to piggyback off the concept (as evidenced by American author Edward Eager in 1954 and Helen Cresswell in 1992). The one slight off note to this film was the way in which the author very calculatedly inserts herself into the action at beginning and end.

Perhaps this will please and re-assure her fanbase but for me it felt a little too much; a bit intrusive.

Nonetheless, it detracts little from the whole.

Reviewed on: 07 Apr 2020
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Four Kids And It packshot
Adaptation of the children's classic.
Amazon link

Director: Andy De Emmony

Writer: Simon Lewis, Mark Oswin, based on the book by Jacqueline Wilson

Starring: Paula Patton, Matthew Goode, Michael Caine, Russell Brand, Cheryl, Ashley Aufderheide, William Franklyn-Miller, Paul Bazely, Billy Jenkins, Ely Solan, Emily Highams, Teddie-Rose Malleson-Allen, Ellie-Mae Siame, Nicholas A. Newman, Torin Condren

Year: 2020

Runtime: 110 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: UK


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