It's hard to believe a movie like "Four Kids and It" was ever meant for the big-screen pre-pandemic. This is as throw-away as they come, probably better suited for a DVD bargain bin in a grocery store, let alone a streaming platform. But at least it's harmless.
The new family-friendly film, "Four Kids and It" is based on the British novel "Four Children and It" by Jacqueline Wilson, which is apparently itself based on the novel "Five Children and It" by E. Nesbit (I won't even ask what happens to that additional child between adaptations...).
A single mother, Alice (Paula Patton), and a single dad, David (Matthew Goode), decide to take a vacation to a remote shore to announce to their four children (two a piece, by other parents) that they're officially dating. David's daughter Ros (Teddie Malleson-Allen) and son Robbie (Billy Jenkins) are a bit leery, but it's Alice's rebellious daughter who goes by "Smash" (Ashley Aufderheide) who creates all the friction between the children (not so much her cute-as-a-button younger sister, Maudie, played by 7-year-old actress Ellie-Mae Siame).
Forced to play and get along together at this vacation property, they discover a strange creature that lives beneath the sandy beach. This creature, of a race of ancient beings called "Psammeads," (and voiced by Michael Caine) is able to grant just one wish per day (two would be deadly), so the kids begin to take advantage of their new friend's unique powers.
One by one, the kids are granted their wishes, but as "It" warns them, all wishes have consequences. Young Robbie wishes to be the world's greatest climber, but at the top of a cliff learns that his powers go away upon sun-down. In a bizarre sequence, Smash becomes an over-night pop sensation, only to have her performance end mid-song, to an empty theater.
While the story and the film are well-intentioned, "Four Kids and It" is about as vanilla as it comes. The dialogue is quite terrible, the parents are bubbly and unrealistic, and all the kids are one-note. Smash is the mean one, Ros the timid one, Maudie the cute one with occasional funny one-liners, and Robbie is obsessed with video games. They all learn lessons about "be careful what you wish for" while communicating with a creature whose CG even seems under-cooked, and who creates laughs by flatulating.
Only Russell Brand, who plays a mysterious, rich antique collector living up in a mansion on the hill, seems to know what sort of movie he's in. When his character is on-screen, at least there is some charm. When he's not, sadly, you wish the other actors - children and adults alike - were having even half-as-much fun.
"Four Kids and It" wishes it was a heartfelt film, and I do to. But sadly, this one has its head buried in the sand.
Genre: Family, Fantasy.
Run Time: 1 hour 50 minutes.
Starring: Matthew Goode, Paula Patton, Ashley Aufderheide, Teddie Malleson-Allen, Billy Jenkins, Ellie-Mae Siame, Russell Brand, and the voice-of Michael Caine.
Directed by Andy De Emmony ("West is West").
On June 30th, Four Kids and It will be available on Digital, Blu-ray, DVD, and On Demand, including major digital platforms including iTunes, Amazon Prime, Vudu, and others.
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