Five Children And It (2004) – movie review

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Movie Review by Vivienne Messenger

Starring: Eddie Izzard, Jonathan Bailey, Jessica Claridge, Freddie Highmore, Poppy Rogers
Director: John Stephenson

Based on Edith Nesbit’s classic of the same name, FIVE CHILDREN AND IT is set in the summer of 1917 against the backdrop of World War I. As their father traumatically departs to fight in the war his five children – Robert (Freddie Highmore), Cyril (Jonathan Bailey), Anthea (Jessica Claridge), Jane (Poppy Rogers) and toddler Lamb (Alec and Zak Muddleton) – board a steam train and journey to their uncle Albert (Kenneth Branagh) who lives in the country.

On finding no one’s there to meet them on their arrival at the nearest station, the children take it upon themselves to walk to their uncle’s isolated mansion perched atop a rocky coastline. Drenched by the falling rain the five children are welcomed in by a rather crazy, absent-minded housekeeper Martha (Zoe Wanamaker), their eccentric uncle and likewise cousin Horace (Alexander Pownell).

Faced with a distant uncle who mostly seeks solitude for his work and Horace who’s equally immersed in his own world disliking his cousins’ intrusion and preferring to disappear into his basement laboratory for his own sinister ends, the five siblings soon tire of the daily boredom and enter the greenhouse despite strict instructions that it is off-limits. Robert the most reckless and adventurous leads the others down a secret passageway that winds down to an isolated beach below and it’s here they stumble upon ‘It’ (Eddie Izzard), and 8000 year-old sand fairy.

‘It’ (Eddie Izzard) is a magical, mysterious and very mischievous creature that has the power to grant wishes. The catch – he deliberately misinterprets their wishes managing to devilishly wreak havoc at their expense but fortunately the wish is only temporary and lasts until sunset.

The centrepiece of the movie is ‘It’ who’s an extremely interesting creature. Originally designed by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop and realistically brought to life with some very effective CGI and animation, ‘It’ has an endearing quality that encourages the children to trust him but which he misuses as his devilish nature takes over. Eddie Izzard’s clever portrayal certainly brings the creature to life.

A period drama, FIVE CHILDREN AND IT starts and finishes with the disruption war causes to everyday life but in between this the children’s’ lives in the film are enriched by their exploits and also shows Horace’s transformation from a loner with evil intentions into a much happier personality.

Children will definitely enjoy the unfolding story and will certainly find the movie entertaining. Suspenseful in places FIVE CHILDREN AND IT is more an adventurous drama with a magical twist to it rather than an action/adventure movie and I found the pace a bit slow in places.

3 out of 6 stars