A makeover of a clas­sic chil­dren’s story that doesn’t suck

The Timaru Herald - - Weekend Entertainm­ent -

Four Kids and It (PG, 110 mins) Di­rected by Andy De Em­mony Re­viewed by James Croot ★★★ 1⁄ 2

Par­ents, fear not. De­spite the ti­tle, this has noth­ing to do with killer clowns or scary spi­ders. Kids, don’t panic, this isn’t a dust­ing off of the near 120-year-old tale of a group of Vic­to­rian chil­dren’s en­counter with a sand­fairy.

In­stead, it’s an adap­ta­tion of Jac­que­line Wil­son’s 2012 update of E Nes­bit’s novel, so char­ac­ters are called Smash in­stead of Pussy, and want to be rock stars rather than meet ‘‘Red In­di­ans’’.

The ba­sic premise though is tech­ni­cally still the same. A quar­tet, in­stead of the orig­i­nal quin­tet, of city kids re­lo­cate to the coun­try­side (here just tem­po­rar­ily so each duo of sib­lings’ court­ing sin­gle par­ents can in­tro­duce them to each other with a po­ten­tial view to even­tual blend­ing), where their bor­ing hol­i­day is en­livened by a chance meet­ing with a Psam­mead.

A kind of furry cross be­tween Harry Pot­ter’s Dobby the House Elf and Nev­erend­ing Story’s Falkor the Luck Dragon, he re­veals he can make the chil­dren’s wildest dreams come true.

‘‘But only one wish a day and noth­ing longer than a sen­tence,’’ he chides. ‘‘Wishes are bad news.’’

The grant­ing process isn’t ex­actly pleas­ant to watch ei­ther. ‘‘Magic isn’t all twinkly lights and

star­dust, some of us have to deal with en­chanted stom­ach gases,’’ the Psam­mead in­tones, as he en­dures some kind of se­vere flat­u­lence.

‘‘Come back to­mor­row, if you

sur­vive this one,’’ he mocks, hav­ing failed to men­tion that each one ends at sun­set.

Of course, none of that puts our four­some off wish­ing for su­per­hu­man abil­i­ties, fame and for­tune, pro­vid­ing them with op­por­tu­ni­ties to bicker and po­ten­tially bond.

What they don’t know though is that watch­ing every­thing closely is lo­cal landowner Tris­tan Trent III (Rus­sell Brand), a man who has spent his whole life try­ing to track down the seem­ingly elu­sive Psam­mead.

Vet­eran Bri­tish TV direc­tor Andy De Em­mony (Fa­ther Ted, At Home With the Braith­waites, The Bletch­ley Cir­cle) de­serves plenty of credit for turn­ing what could have been a mawk­ish di­a­tribe against mod­ern tech­nol­ogy into a knock­about com­edy the whole fam­ily can en­joy.

Much of that suc­cess comes down to the cast­ing.

Ted­die-Rose Malle­son-Allen (Swal­lows and Ama­zons) and Ash­ley Aufder­heide (Go­ing in Style) make for a like­able pair of dis­parate teens, Matthew Goode (Down­ton Abbey) and Paula Pat­ton (Deja Vu) are a be­liev­able cou­ple strug­gling in the face of youth op­po­si­tion to their trans-At­lantic match, but Brand steals the show as the ec­cen­tric, schem­ing Tris­tan, a man who comes from a long line of landed gen­try who ‘‘dis­cover new civil­i­sa­tions and lib­er­ate their knick-knacks’’.

‘‘Oh, you’re Amer­i­can, I thought you had a speech im­ped­i­ment,’’ he says upon meet­ing Aufder­heide’s Smash.

Then there’s Michael Caine, de­liv­er­ing his liveli­est per­for­mance in years as the voice of the iras­ci­ble Psam­mead.

While some tweens and young teens may still find the sto­ry­line a touch too twee, Four Kids and It is still a lot more fun (and co­her­ent) than that other re­cent, big­bud­geted fairy story Artemis Fowl.

‘‘Magic isn’t all twinkly lights and star­dust, some of us have to deal with en­chanted stom­ach gases.’’

Some tweens and young teens may find the sto­ry­line a touch too twee, but Four Kids and It is a lot of fun.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.