Five Children and It

(John Stephenson, UK/USA/France, 2004)


This essentially British film for children has a fraction of the budget of the Harry Potter films. But it possesses a good deal more charm and imagination.


Director John Stephenson and writer David Solomons have revived the 1902 novel of the same name by E. (for Edith) Nesbit (The Railway Children). Like Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unofrtunate Events (2004) – although with a less Gothic edge – this tale separates a group of children from their parents and the normal, everyday world.


Being exposed to eccentric Uncle Albert (Kenneth Branagh) and his unlovely son, Horace (Alexander Pownall), is disconcerting enough. But magic awaits through a secret passage, and on the beach: the figure of It, a somewhat perverse imp who grants the children’s wishes without always letting on what that materialisation will entail.


There are many splendid scenes here, including one in which the children are cloned over and over in order to clean the house quickly. But the biggest treat is undoubtedly Eddie Izzard’s vocal performance as It, babbling away subversively in the tradition of the underrated Monkeybone (2001) – and even breaking the confines of the plot to insist over the final credits that the sequel will have to be more fittingly called It and Five Children!

© Adrian Martin March 2005

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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