Arts

Ireland-shot fantasy Four Kids and It 'could be a tonic for families during lockdown'

An ancient sand creature (voiced by Michael Caine) grants wishes in the family-friendly adventure Four Kids And It. Damon Smith reviews...

Psammead is voiced by Michael Caine in fantasy adventure Four Kids And It
Damon Smith

BE CAREFUL what you wish for when you already have everything you need to be happy. That's the underlying message of Four Kids And It, an energetic adaptation of Jacqueline Wilson's bestselling novel for children, filmed on location in Dublin and Co Wicklow to double for windswept Cornwall.

Originally earmarked for cinema release before the Covid-19 pandemic, director Andy De Emmony's cautionary tale premieres on Sky Cinema where the script's gently effervescent mix of comedy, romance and wish fulfilment could be a tonic for families in need of a fleeting diversion during lockdown.

A cameo from Cheryl as an officious manager of a global pop star is a momentary distraction in the film's slow-paced middle section. Thankfully, Russell Brand is firing on all cylinders as the well-to-do pantomime villain, who gleefully rolls his tongue around phrases like "ethnically insensitive erotica" in his single-minded pursuit of parent-targeted titters.

The enchanted creature voiced by Sir Michael Caine, who casts a spell over feuding characters, would be powerless to permanently conjure away the nagging fears of our current predicament.

However, for the best part of two hours, De Emmony's picture holds the attention of younger viewers without excessive fidgeting.

That is surely magic.

David (Matthew Goode) spirits his children, 13-year-old Ros (Teddie-Rose Malleson-Allen) and eight-year-old Robbie (Billy Jenkins), away to a seaside cottage in Cornwall. Ros clings to the hope that her divorced parents might reconcile and she misinterprets an aside from her father as an acknowledgement that their mother will joining them.

Instead, David's new girlfriend Alice (Paula Patton) arrives at the cottage with her brood: aspiring singer-songwriter Smash (Ashley Aufderheide) and cherubic Maudie (Ellie-Mae Siame). The emotionally bruised moppets clash and battle lines are drawn when they encounter an ancient being called a Psammead (voiced by Caine), which lives in the sand of a secluded beach. The benevolent creature promises to grant one wish each day.

Ros, who has read a copy of Five Children And It by E Nesbit, is wise to the hidden caveats: the wish lasts until sunset and each heart's desire will invariably have a sting in the tail. Regardless, Smash, Robbie and Maudie call upon the Psammead and arouse the suspicions of demented local laird Tristan (Brand).

Four Kids And It is whimsical entertainment, crafted with a broad family audience in mind.

Digital effects, which bring the Psammead vividly to life, are slickly executed. The young cast is ably led by the engaging Malleson-Allen while Goode and Patton kindle a few sparks of chemistry from their limited screen time.

Author Wilson makes a brief, glowing appearance during end credits to provide her seal of approval to Simon Lewis and Mark Oswin's script

Rating: 6/10

FOUR KIDS AND IT (PG, 110 mins) Drama/Comedy/Fantasy/Romance. Teddie-Rose Malleson-Allen, Ashley Aufderheide, Billy Jenkins, Ellie-Mae Siame, Matthew Goode, Paula Patton, Russell Brand, Cheryl and the voice of Sir Michael Caine. Director: Andy De Emmony.

:: Released April 3 on Sky Cinema

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