When wishes come true

FOUR KIDS AND IT (PG)

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film Reviews - David Strat­ton

Na­tional re­lease (ex­cept Vic­to­ria)

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E (for Edith) Nes­bit (1858-1924) was an English au­thor of chil­dren’s books. One of her best known works, Five Chil­dren and It (1902) was the first of three in the Psam­mead se­ries, and it be­came es­sen­tial read­ing for chil­dren in the Ed­war­dian era. In 2012, au­thor Jac­que­line Wil­son pub­lished Four Chil­dren and It, a com­bi­na­tion trib­ute to and con­tem­po­rary re­work­ing of Nes­bit’s book, and now direc­tor Andy de Em­mony has filmed Wil­son’s book un­der the ti­tle Four Kids and It.

Alice (Paula Pat­ton), an Amer­i­can, and David (Matthew Goode), a Brit, have sep­a­rated from their part­ners and be­come a cou­ple, some­thing not yet ac­cepted by their chil­dren, Smash (Ash­ley Aufder­heide), a feisty girl, and Maudie (El­lieMae Si­ame), who be­long to Alice, and booklov­ing pre-teen Ros (Ted­die-Rose MallesonAl­len) and Rob­bie (Billy Jenk­ins), whose Dad is David.

The six get to­gether for the first time when they rent a cot­tage by the sea in Corn­wall and af­ter the chil­dren get over their nat­u­ral un­hap­pi­ness with the new do­mes­tic ar­range­ments and start to ex­plore, they soon stum­ble on a hid­den cove and en­counter the Psam­mead.

In case you don’t know what a Psam­mead is, I can re­veal that it’s a sand mon­ster with a head a bit like that of ET, a some­what ratty and shabby round body, and short legs. It speaks with the un­mis­take­able voice of Michael Caine, and when it gets ex­cited or an­noyed, its stom­ach ex­pands like a bal­loon, which is scary to be­hold. How­ever, it proves to be an ami­able, crea­ture.

Ros has read Nes­bit’s book so she knows that the Psam­mead can grant wishes, though there are lim­its in­volved. Only one wish a day can be en­ter­tained, and the wish will end at sun­set. One by one, the chil­dren try their luck, Rob­bie to be a rock climber, Smash to be a rock star (at a con­cert that con­cludes very abruptly, strand­ing the kids in Lon­don) and Ros to go back in time to meet the five chil­dren from the Nes­bit book and to ask them if they know how to make the wishes per­ma­nent.

Ob­serv­ing all this is the evil Tris­tan Trent (Rus­sell Brand, en­joy­ing him­self no end), a lo­cal landowner and a de­scen­dant of big game hun­ters whose am­bi­tion is to add the head of a Psam­mead to his tro­phy wall.

Scripted by Si­mon Lewis and Mark Oswin, Four Kids and It is a mod­estly at­trac­tive film for the en­tire fam­ily.

The wishes are granted in some­times spec­tac­u­lar ways, the visual ef­fects are clever, and there’s an un­der­ly­ing mes­sage about the im­por­tance of heal­ing dif­fer­ences and ac­cept­ing the things that can’t be changed. if deeply ec­cen­tric,

Ros, Smash, Maudie and Rob­bie in Four Kids and It

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