FOUR KIDS AND IT (2020) | VOD
I prepared myself to watch this with a child’s lens, knowing full well that this story is aimed at and is made for children. By that I mean, I went into this watch considering I would base my verdicts on this question: would I be excited to show my young nephew this film? I basically did zero research prior to starting the film, but I assumed it was based off a novel of the same name--which is sort of true. The film is based off the 2012 novel “Four Children and It” written by Jacqueline Wilson, and that book is based off the 1902 novel “Five Children and It” by Edith Nesbit. Also, the voice of the creature is Michael Caine! Who doesn’t love Michael Caine!!??
This film might as well have been directed by a child. The writing was questionable at best, the acting was unbelievable (literally) and completely overdone more often than natural. The story was so scattered I felt that some scenes should have been cut out completely. The transitions from scene to scene are basically nonexistent, and I could hardly imagine a child would be able to keep up. Not because the story is complicated, but merely because it just does not flow at all. The story comes together with a happy ending (because of course it does) but it is so predictable that you are just begging to get it over with so you don’t have to watch it anymore. If you fast forwarded through the last few scenes, you would still be able to accurately guess what happened. As I have not read the book, I have no comparison--but you couldn’t pay me to revisit this story in either capacity.
Two single parents who are in a relationship bring their kids together to meet on a vacation unbeknownst to them. The kids, distraught from this impromptu vacation and a “hey, meet your new potential family!” discover a magical creature on the beach who will grant them one wish per day. Here is the catch: that wish ends every day at sunset. The conflict is silly and holds almost no weight so that you do not really care about the outcome. The overall idea of the story seems creative enough to hold your attention, but it falls short in so many ways.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
The two best actors/characters were Michael Caine as the voice of the creature “Psammead” and Teddie Malleson-Allen who portrayed our protagonist, Ros--a sweet girl, who always has good intentions. However, Psammead resembled a distant cousin hybrid of a cute sloth, Peter CottonTail, and a drowned rat, who got caught up in really hard drugs and is in recovery. Psammead’s existence is almost distracting; if the voice would have been anyone else, I think it would have been unbearable to watch.
Otherwise, the adult parents are completely absent from this vacation with their children. The father, David (Matthew Goode) and mother Alice (Paula Patton) are not believable in any sense, their relationship is forced and unnatural, they hardly are part of the story,l and I’ll say it: not good parents. The counterpart to Ros is a young girl around the same age, Samantha, who they call “Smash” (Ashley Aufderheide). Smash is so unlikable and rude that even when she has her pivoting moment and we are supposed to warm up to her the same way Ros does, I refused--because she was completely unredeemable from her earlier attitude and actions.The two younger children were cute but forgettable--I don’t even remember their names--but one of them acts like a baby when she is clearly not, which just becomes annoying. Russell Brand was strange, as expected--just as his character Tristan Trent, the villain of the story. From what I could tell in a quick Wikipedia read about the book the film is based off of, this character doesn’t even exist in the book, which explains why it is so undeveloped.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
"Unless this is your favorite book, I would not give this the time of day...."
The film was shot on the beautiful coast of Ireland. This was probably the most appealing part of the film. There is a sequence where the children fly around like Superman, which was fun but it made me laugh because it looked so cheesy. Again, I found Psammead to be more terrifying than cute, but maybe kids are more accepting? I did find that Psammead’s insertion into the live action was well done.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
There is nothing special here other than the voice of Michael Caine. It is clear that I am a fan of his, by now? The rest of the music and score serve for the basic functionalities expected in any film.
I really wanted to give this a fair chance with optimism but it just started off on the wrong foot and got worse from there. Unless this is your favorite book, I would not give this the time of day or recommend it to anyone who has a child or not. And to answer my question from the Opening Thoughts: I would never show this to my nephew.