Parents and older kids may remember the classic E Nesbit book about a wish-granting creature called a psammead, or the enjoyable 1991 TV and 2004 movie adaptations.
Unfortunately, this modern update is based not on Nesbit’s book but on a novel by author Jacqueline Wilson (Four Children And It) that also features the sand-dwelling psammead (here voiced by Michael Caine). Unfortunately, it has none of the charm of the Nesbit adaptations and doesn’t really work as a modern fantasy drama either.
New couple Alice and David (Patton and Goode) rather stupidly decide to bring their respective kids to a Cornwall holiday home to meet for the first time, without telling them first (just one of the many examples of less-than-great parenting in the movie). Alice’s stroppy teen Smash (Ashley Aufderheide) is particularly annoyed to have potential step-siblings Robbie (Billy Jenkins) and Ros (Teddie-Rose Malleson-Allen) thrust upon her, but at least the group (that also includes very young Maudie) are distracted when they stumble across a secret beach that is home to the light-fingered psammead It.
His powers remain the same as in the original children’s book – he can grant wishes but they usually have consequences, and they always end at sunset – and the kids have various adventures as they bicker about who gets to have a wish next. Adding to the drama is the presence of local posh landowner Tristan Trent III (Brand), who is creepily interested in what the kids are up to.
Popping up occasionally as the dimmest parents ever, Patton and Goode are underused, while Brand seems to be attempting to copy Billy Connolly’s far funnier lord of the manor performance from, of all things, Garfield: A Tale Of Two Kitties.
It’s up to the kids to carry the movie, and they’re all watchable but eclipsed by the cantankerous It and Caine’s enjoyable vocal performance (parents of younger kids should note that the psammead here is far cuter than in previous screen versions) which is the best thing about an otherwise very average family movie.
Is Four Kids And It suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
The ‘It’ in this version is the cuddliest version of the Psammead you’ll find and only very young children may find him a little scary to begin with.
The children have various adventures – including travelling far from home without their parents – but you never feel they are in great danger.
Russell Brand’s character is slightly sinister but more buffoonish than creepy – very little kids may not like him. They may also (SPOILER ALERT) find it upsetting when he is buried under a huge pile of gold coins.
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