FIVE CHILDREN AND IT
When their father (Alex Jennings) goes to war and their mother (Tara Fitzgerald) nurses the wounded, the five children are sent to stay with their crazy author Uncle Albert (Kenneth Branagh). His son Horace (Alexander Pownall), left to his own devices, spends all his time dissecting dolls and experimenting with test tubes in his laboratory. Robert (Freddie Highmore) find a secret passage under the house that leads him and his siblings to a secluded beach, where they dig up an 8,000 old sand-fairy, who they call 'It' (voice of Eddie Izzard). 'It' grants them one wish each day, but they quickly find that magic brings chaos, not instant happiness. Besides, each wish only lasts until the sun sets.
Review by Louise Keller:
There are a few special moments in Five Children and It, but this adaptation of E. Nesbet's classic novel is not the enchanting film it might have been. It's a moderately enjoyable adventure, uplifted mostly by the presence of the wonderfully expressive Freddie Highmore (Finding Neverland), and the whirlwind of absurdities from comedian Eddie Izzard, who provides the animated voice for It. 'It' is an ancient sand-fairy (Jim Henson Creature Workshop-style), who is discovered by five children on a secret beach, and grants them a wish each day.
When the five children arrive in the run-down mansion that is groaning with chaos, it's no wonder Highmore's Robert declares 'what a dumb place.' He is especially missing his navigator father, who before going to war, gives him his treasured compass to steer the family on course. But Robert's home-away-from-home is no home at all, with his mad-as-a-hatter Uncle Albert (a fine turn from Kenneth Branagh) and his pudgy, anti-social cousin Horace (Alexander Pownall), whose life revolves around monster-inspired lab experiments. At the very first opportunity to explore, Robert finds a locked door and a secret passage leading to the beach.
Making a wish seems easy at first, but they soon learn to be careful, when every wish has its consequence. When they wish their chores to be done, clones make a terrible mess, and even the buckets of gold they hope will pay for the breakages become a burden. But there's nothing magical about the magic sequences, neither the dinosaur hatching in the lab, nor the flying sequence, when the children get the wings they ask for and fly out the window.
With its themes about family and father/son relationship, Five Children and It has its heart in the right place, but there's not enough fun getting there.
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FIVE CHILDREN AND IT (PG)
CAST: Jonathan Bailey, Jessica Claridge, Freddie Highmore, Poppy Rogers, Alec & Zak Muggleton, Alexander Pownall, Kenneth Branagh, Zoe Wanamaker, Alex Jennings, Tara Fitzgerald, voice of Eddie Izzard
PRODUCER: Nick Hirschkorn, Lisa Henson, Samuel Hadida
DIRECTOR: John Stephenson
SCRIPT: David Solomons (novel by E. Nesbit)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Mike Brewster
EDITOR: Michael Ellis
MUSIC: Jane Antonia Cornish
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Roger Hall
RUNNING TIME: 89 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: QLD, TAS, VIC, NT: March 24; NSW, WA, ACT: April 7, 2005
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Home Video
VIDEO RELEASE: September 7, 2005