Five Children And It (PG)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner12/10/2004

Three out of Five stars

Average children's drama that's enlivened by Izzard's vocal performance but still feels as if it really ought to be a TV movie.

Five Children And It is based on the novel by E. Nesbit, who also wrote childrens' classics The Phoenix and the Carpet and The Railway Children. In fact, Five Children And It was made into a childrens' TV serial as recently as the early 1990s - its episodic structure is clearly more suited to the serial format, which might explain why the film frequently feels as if it really ought to be on TV instead.

With their father away at war and their mother (Tara Fitzgerald) working as a nurse, five children from London (including Jonathan Bailey, Jessica Claridge and Freddie Highmore) are sent to live with their eccentric Uncle (Kenneth Branagh) in his run-down mansion by the sea. Creeped out by Uncle's junior-mad-scientist son, Horace (Alexander Pownall), the children explore the house and find a secret passage to the beach, where they discover a whiskery blue creature that turns out to be an 8000 year old sand fairy (voiced by Eddie Izzard and animated by Jim Henson's Creature Shop).

The sand fairy promises to grant the children one wish per day, lasting until sunset. However, he doesn't really like children all that much and mischievously ensures that the wishes all backfire in unexpected ways, leading to a series of madcap adventures involving wings, dinosaurs, clones and cars.

The effects are rather clunky and the CGI work frequently looks unfinished and disappointing. That said, whoever took the decision to use Henson's Creature Shop (and therefore An Actual Puppet) for 'It' deserves a round of very big drinks, because it works perfectly.

The acting is something of a mixed bag, although Freddie Highmore (soon to be a major child star after an astonishing performance in the upcoming Finding Neverland) stands out as Robert. Branagh is also good, though you frequently suspect that he's doing a sneaky impression of Jim Broadbent.

Given the abysmal nature of his recent 'real-life' performances, it comes of something of a surprise to be able to say that Eddie Izzard is the best thing about Five Children And It - ironically, his character is probably about as close to his free-associating stand-up persona as it's possible to be. Consequently, 'It's' comic asides ("Have your parents tried boiling you?") provide the film with its biggest laughs.

To sum up, Five Children And It isn't a brilliant film, but it's oddly comforting nonetheless, possibly because it invariably conjures up memories of watching children's television. As a result, it deserves to find a suitable audience, though Izzard's delightful performance at least ensures a measure of adult appeal too. Worth seeing, but not quite as good as it should have been.

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Content updated: 18/10/2017 23:17

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