Five Children and It (2004)

A Classic given a CGI Overhaul

In the summer of 1917 Robert (Freddie Highmore) along with his brothers and sisters are sent to live with Uncle Albert (Kenneth Branagh) at his home in the country whilst their father goes off to war and their mother nurses the injured. Uncle Albert's mansion is a book filled gothic labyrinth where the eccentric Albert lives with his quirky son Horace (Alexander Pownall) and their housekeeper Martha (Zoe Wanamaker). Whilst they have rules to follow Robert and his siblings end up going into the greenhouse and through a forbidden door where they find themselves at a secret beach which is the home to "It", an 8,000 year old Psammead, aka a sand fairy, who will grant any wish leading to a series of adventures although they only last till sunset.

The mind can play some awful tricks on you, take for example "Five Children and It", I was convinced I watched it as a BBC series when I was still at school yet the version I remember didn't get made until 1991 when I had finished school. But whilst I know I had watched an earlier version the only things I could remember about it was it was the classic tale of children going to stay in the country during war and the grumpy Psammead puppet which was in that version. I say classic because Edith Nesbit who wrote "Five Children and It" also wrote other classic children's stories such as "The Railway Children" and "The Treasure Seekers".

Now having watched this 2004 version of "Five Children and It" I find myself strangely bemused because it is undoubtedly entertaining from the CGI Psammead, wonderfully voiced by Eddie Izzard, to the series of adventures which the children embark on including buying a motor car. Yet like with the version I remember from years earlier none of the actual adventures really stick with you after the movie is over. Yes you remember certain scenes such as one where the children find themselves repetitively cloned but it is a very visual movie all about the over the top entertainment of set pieces and larger than life characters with Kenneth Branagh turning the dial to 11 on the over the top dial. All of which is entertaining for young children but doesn't offer a great deal for grown ups except a whole array of familiar British actors such as Branagh and Norman Wisdom.

What this all boils down to is that "Five Children and It" is entertaining and in many ways it is a remake which makes sense as it visually updates the earlier version which would appeal to a new generation. But like with the version I watched years before it is actually forgettable due to it being a visual movie with many set pieces but not much beyond that.