Following in the tradition of many childhood adventures, Four Kids and It centers on a bored kid with a bright imagination. Like the heroes of Hook, Jumanji, and The Goonies before her, Ros (Teddie-Rose Malleson-Allen) is a bookworm who reads of Wonderlands and Neverlands, then finds her own land of spells, wishes, and creatures. Unfortunately, the family comedy around her fails to produce magic.
Ros’s imagination manifests on a get-to-know-you beach vacation in Cornwall. She meets her dad’s new girlfriend and her daughters (Smash and Maudie), who spend all day playing video games. While there, the kids stumble upon a tubby creature called Psammead, which looks like a mix between the Grinch and Oscar the Grouch. Voiced by Michael Caine, the creature grants the children’s wishes, including helicopter rides and pop star fame. Meanwhile, Russel Brand plays a villain/stalker/probable pervert who tracks the kids to Psammead’s hidden cove.
Four Kids and It quickly evolves into a chase movie, with the episodic structure of British author E. Nesbit’s source material (the original 1902 novel is titled Five Children and It). But despite the novel blueprint, the director Andy De Emmony has made a visually and conceptually flat film. The dialogue is cringey, with an overemphasis on over-acting, and lingering too long on sketchy stereotypes. You can’t blame Ros for growing tired of her siblings. After 20 minutes, De Emmony’s “up-to-date” dialogue turns the kids into every parent’s worst nightmare — all they talk about is about is iPhones and wi-fi. It’s all pretty dumb.
You may very well be asking for a silly, nonsensical adventure to keep the family occupied for a couple of hours. But, as the saying goes, you should be careful what you wish for.
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