VOD film review: Four Kids and It
Ivan Radford | On 05, Apr 2020
Director: Andy De Emmony
Cast: Michael Caine, Matthew Goode, Paula Patton, Russell Brand,
Watch Four Kids and It online in the UK: Sky Cinema / NOW / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store
“I can’t do magic on myself.” “Well, that sucks.” That’s the sound of an age-old character being resurrected on our screens in Four Kids and It, Sky Cinema’s new original family film released just in time for Easter. Based on Jacqueline Wilson’s book, which, in turn, was inspired by E. Nesbit’s Five Children and It, the updated fantasy adventure introduces us to “It”, aka. the Psammead, a beach-dwelling creature who turns wishes into reality – but only for one day. He crosses paths with our group of young protagonists and what ensues is a familiar ride through magical possibilities.
It’s the stuff family classics are made of, and Four Kids and It wastes little time in putting all the required pieces in place. There’s David (Matthew Goode), a divorced dad who’s nice but not in touch with his kids. There’s Alice (Paula Patton), his American girlfriend who is struggling to win over the tykes while also bringing her own offspring to the table.
Clashing together, the quartet are a convincingly modern bunch, from gamer Robbie (Billy Jenkins) and bookworm Ros (Teddie-Rose Malleson) to bright young’un Maudie (Ella-Mae Siame) and rebellious step-sister Smash (Ashley Aufderheide). As well as their own tensions, they also each yearn for the nuclear unit that brought them into the world.
Before we get to their inevitably personal wishes, we’re treated to a host of other fantastical stunts, such as them flying through woods or – in one neat homage – back in time. Along the way, they cross paths with Tristan (Russell Brand), an eccentric landowner who, of course, his has own nefarious plans afoot.
Brand is given free rein to make an impression and he’s clearly having a lot of fun as the villainous toff – one improvised line involving the phrase “ethnically-insensitive erotica” is as inappropriate as it is hilariously unexpected. The rest of the cast, though, are less fortunate, with their characters not given enough space or depth to become believable. Goode and Patton’s parental figures are disappointingly cliched, which leaves the kids’ main motivation – their bond with the adults looking after them – undeveloped.
That makes it a double shame, as the young bunch of actors are all likeable leads, while Michael Caine’s grumpy vocals make the Psammead – somewhere between ET and a Gremlin – a plausibly weary figure. “Let’s wish for world peace,” says one of the kids. “Finally,” sighs the hairy, big-eared genie. Needless to say, that doesn’t happen. The result is a harmless family outing that never quite builds on its flashes of promise. The only wish you’ll have is that it had a bit more, well, magic.
Four Kids and It is available on Sky Cinema. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW, as part of an £11.99 NOW Cinema Membership subscription.