Ros, Maudie, Smash, and Robbie discover a Psammead on the beach.
The Harry Potter franchise changed two artistic mediums during its lifetime. Its success led to the Young Adult Fiction publication boom of the late 1990’s and 2000’s for books, which in turn led to movie studios spending much of the late 2000’s trying to create film franchises based on a book series. Twilight, The Chronicles of Narnia, Percy Jackson, Divergent, The Hunger Games, A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Golden Compass, and Bridge to Terabithia all were made in the vein of creating a film series that follows young teens and preteens as they go on adventures, magical or otherwise. Some of these were smashing successes, while most others failed to capture the charm of the literature they were based on. This leads us to the 2020 UK film, Four Kids and It. Produced by Sky Cinema, the movie is based on the book of Four Children and It by Jacqueline Wilson, which in turn is based on the original 1902 novel Five Children and It by E. Nesbit. This film adaptation stars Teddie-Rose Malleson-Allen, Pippa Haywood, Matthew Goode, Ella-Mae Siame, Billy Jenkins, Ashley Aufderheide, Cheryl Tweedy, Paula Patton, Russell Brand, and Michael Caine as the voice of Psammead.
Robbie successfully climbs the steep cliff to rescue his gaming device.
The film follows two pairs of kids from newly dating parents as they go on vacation to the Cornish coast. First, there’s Ros (Malleson-Allen), a bookworm, and Robbie (Jenkins), a gamer. Their dad David (Goode) is dating an American, Alice (Patton). Her two kids are Maudie (Siame), a toddler, and Smash (Aufderheide), a rebellious preteen. The kids have a lot of trouble getting along until they stumble upon the magical Psammead in a seaside cave. Psammead is a genie creature that grants the kids one wish a day, with the condition that the wish only lasts until sunset. This sets up for some childlike hijinks, as the kids eventually come together as a family.
Robbie, Maudie, Alice, and David walking up to the Trent Castle.
Nesbit’s original novel was an adventure story that presented cautionary moral lessons with a wry humor and a genuine understanding of how kids think. Wilson’s updated take sets the story in modern times with blended families and kids with modern anxieties. Where this film severely falters is white washing those complex issues away, stripping the story of its edge so that it is strenuously inoffensive and watered down. This is a decision many Young Adult film adaptations make, as they view the fantastical elements as what captures people’s interest. However, in all reality, what makes series like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games stay in the minds of the generations of children who grew up reading those books is their complex themes, characters, and storylines. The magical elements are just set dressing on a strong foundation of good writing. Kids can tell when they’re being treated like children, and Hollywood would be wise to treat them like “young adults” and stop stripping these stories of their themes.
Tristan Trent takes the kids on a tour of his mansion.
This film was originally intended to be a multi-platform release, but was sent to VOD-only when its release was uprooted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is probably for the best for this film, as it's hard to see it playing on the big screen and it works better as a film to be put on the TV for young kids. The special effects are good for a TV film, with the majority of the budget looking like it was spent on Psammead. The child actors are fine in their roles, but the life of the film (and what might keep parents watching) is Michael Caine as Psammead. Caine’s distinct Cockney voice is usually heard giving incredibly rich and artistic lines of dialogue, so to hear him voice a talking troll genie is a juxtaposing delight. Russel Brand also offers his usual brand of weirdness, although it kind of feels like he’s in a different film than the other characters. Overall, this film is an inoffensive watch, and perfectly fine if you’re looking for an afternoon film to put on for the kids as you continue to sit in lockdown.
Smash, Robbie, and Maudie are talking about wishes to the sand fairy.
Robbie starts chasing after the sand fairy.
Billy Jenkins wears black mid high street chucks throughout the film. They are not quite full sized high top chucks but rather a hybrid designed for younger kids, complete with a strap on the ankle pieces to make it easier to pull them on. The best scenes are on the beach when he is pursuing the sand fairy or fulfulling wishes like climbing up the cliff or flying.
Closeup of Robbie's chucks as he chases the psammead.
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