Orphan Molly Moon (Cassidy) finds a book about hypnotism and decides to use it to improve life at the orphanage where she lives – trouble is, there is an inept criminal (Monaghan) who wants to get his hands on the book to use it for more nefarious reasons.
Based on the book by Georgia Byng, this quirky adventure harks back to the old-fashioned, simple kids movies of the sixties and seventies that starred actors like Mark Lester or Hayley Mills. It’s an odd blend of ideas, mixing lots of Roald Dahl elements (orphaned child, mildly nasty orphanage boss as played by Lesley Manville, the timid, friendly grown-up as played by Emily Watson, etc) with modern references (Molly wants to use her hypnotic powers to win an X Factor-style talent contest), while chucking in a yawnsome moral to the story as well.
While Cassidy – who also starred in Snow White And The Huntsman and Tomorrowland – is a terrific young performer, she is saddled with a rather thankless role here. Molly actually isn’t very nice – she forgets her best friend, Rocky, at every opportunity, and is pretty selfish – so you don’t root for her, and her ability to hypnotise people doesn’t seem very magical or incredible (her eyes go green and people do what she says, that’s about it), especially as she uses it for her own gain. And while Roald Dahl populated his worlds with truly mean grown-ups, even the baddies in this movie aren’t too awful, so you’re never too worried whether Molly will escape them or not.
Kids may be mildly diverted by this tale on a wet Saturday morning, but there’s nothing much here for adults – except the cast list, which for British viewers is something of a spot-the-celebrity game, as it includes everyone from Sadie Frost and Joan Collins (as Monaghan’s crime boss mother), to Ben Miller, Celia Imrie and Gary Kemp.
Is Molly Moon And The Incredible Book Of Hypnotism suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...