An American Pickle – Review

Cert – 12, Run-time – 1 hour 28 minutes, Director – Brandon Trost

Ditch-digger Herschel Greenbaum (Seth Rogen) finds himself in present day Brooklyn after being preserved in pickle brine for 100 years.

Seth Rogen falls into a giant vat of pickles and is preserved in the brine for 100 years. This may sound, to some, like the standard basis for a Rogen led feature, especially with the brand of “stoner-comedy” that he seems to have become associated with. However, An American Pickle is something rather different from the man behind the likes of Bad Neighbours, This Is The End and Sausage Party. Having worked with Rogen on some of these features is Pickle’s director Brandon Trost, making his debut here; having served as cinematographer on a number of Rogen projects. Trost, alongside Simon Rich’s screenplay – adapting his New Yorker published short story Sell Out – and the efforts of the entire cast and crew, manages to make something rather endearing of this tale of salt and cucumbers.

Rogen plays Herschel Greenbaum, a penniless ditch digger in early 20th century Schlupsk who finds himself travelling to America in hope for a better life. Unfortunately not long after his hope-filled travels Herschel finds himself falling into a giant vat of pickles, preserved in the brine for 100 years, until he is let free in the modern day. He finds himself left to wander the streets of Brooklyn; alone, without his wife or any family for that matter. That is until it’s revealed that he has one living relative left, a great-grandson called Ben (also played by Rogen). Ben works as an app developer and takes it upon himself to teach his distant relative, who conveniently happens to be the same age as him (or at least he was when he was first preserved), despite his behaviour being that of an older man, the ways of the 21st Century.

There’s something about the dual performance at the centre of this film where due to the plot things could easily delve into parody – especially when Herschel starts up his own pickle business which leads to an odd rivalry of revenge between the pair – particularly from Ben towards the almost clueless, and highly ‘traditional’ Herschel. Yet, the central figures always seem real, engaging and most of all entertaining, while never straying away from feeling genuine. There’s a chance that a number of the themes, particularly that of Ben’s Jewish background, yet lack of faith, and in particular the themes of grief within the film, are personal for Rogen and therefore bring an extra layer to his performances. Either way he brings in an element of delightfully surprising charm, not to mention the emotion that’s emitted from a number of scenes.

As the characters develop and the modern world is further revealed to the somewhat time-travelling protagonist his olde-age views and offensive comments spark outrage and protests. Yet, never does the film step into the realm of critique or commentary. Such points simply make it feel more relevant, while also adding to the humour that the piece emits. This is a deeply funny feature that knows how to balance the carefully fuelled comedy with equally effective sorrow. All while never being a complicated feature.

From the opening scenes as we see Herschel describing his life in his homeland, drab and simple yet warm and beginning to be fulfilled – as also told by the almost colourless cinematography and square framing – the film’s tone is clearly set out. This is an uplifting piece. Joyful and caring, and in some ways that makes it even more relevant and engaging. All of this done while never forgetting that this is the story of a man who fell into a vat of pickles and was immaculately protected in salty brine for a whole century. There is warmth and charm, sorrow and joy all emitted from this story. A true collaborative effort, a potentially personal one for many of the key parties involved. And much of it comes down to Seth Rogen’s fantastically sobering dual performance at the centre of it.

At times An American Pickle feels like a collaboration between Mel Brooks and Taika Waititi. Fantastically observed writing, direction and performances bring to life this hilarious, impassioned, effortlessly charming tale. While the initial idea might be obscure the finished product may just be one of the most accessible and entertaining films of the year.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Proxima – Review

Cert – 12, Run-time – 1 hour 47 minutes, Director – Alice Wincour

Astronaut Sarah (Eva Green) is preparing to spend a year in space in the last mission before going to Mars, however this is also a year away from her eight year old daughter (Zélie Boulant)

Years of education and training have led astronaut Sarah (Eva Green) to the final frontier. At the start of Alice Wincour’s Proxima Green’s character finds herself being selected for the last mission before people are finally sent to Mars. However, while she will only be away from Earth for a year this is also a year away from her eight year old daughter, Stella (Zélie Boulant); perhaps the biggest stress and loss for her.

Stella desperately wants her Mum to stay, while she has a relationship with her father – her parents being separated – it’s clear that it’s certainly not as strong as that with her mother, with whom she lives with most of the time. She breaks into tears claiming that her dad is allergic to the cat so she must have to stay with her Green’s increasingly worried character. As the mission gets closer it’s clear that the impact of a year away from her daughter, as she already begins to spend less time with her while training and getting ready for launch, is getting to both parties as they begin to break down bit by bit. At one point a child seeing their parent going into space is likened to them being strapped into a giant bomb – something which is clearly felt more and more by both characters.

While initially the film seems to be divided as to whether mother or daughter is the main focus of the film once it establishes that we see everything through the caring, if fearful, eyes of the parent things begin to pick up. There’s still an understanding for the thoughts and feelings of both figures, yet the pressures from fellow astronauts, engineers and almost everyone else involved with the mission heaps even more upon the film’s eventual focus, adding to the weight she has to carry and trying to get the audience to connect with her more. The emotional punch might not always be there, the film truly works when the characters are together, even if talking to each other over the phone. When separated although one is obviously in the mind of the other some scenes begin to loose the emotion and slight momentum that the film has built up as they focus on other relationships, or rather Sarah’s various training exercises or medical procedures and exams to prepare her for her life in space.

It’s during such moments that the connection begins to drop and the 107 minutes run-time begins to show, and while some such moments just about click there are others that don’t quite work as well, due to not having that established connection that is so clearly there between Sarah and Stella. They both go through experiences of having to get used to new surroundings and people, yet Stella’s stick out more due to her being a child, alongside the way that the film handles such matters in different ways. Throughout the film the bond between the pair is what brings about most of the emotion and the flow. It’s what’s there for the audience to connect with, almost everything revolves around that main relationship and without it the film occasionally begins to not quite wander off, like the viewer’s attention sometimes starts to as certain scenes start to go on for too long, but slightly shift focus to other relationships than the one that creates the proper connection and impact over the course of the run-time.

It’s the mother-daughter relationship at the front of Proxima that truly forms a connection with the characters and the film, while those with other characters don’t quite take off or feel that in-depth, pushing on the run-time, there’s always that reliable look at the closely bonded family core to lift things up.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

How To Build A Girl – Review

Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 44 minutes, Director – Coky Giedroyc

Aspiring teenage writer Johanna (Beanie Feldstein) finds herself being a rock critic for a national magazine, however is it helping her discover more of her own personality or a harsh alter-ego?

Johanna Morrigan (Beanie Feldstein) sits at her desk unsure what to write. Hunched over her brother’s pale typewriter struggling for ideas. She knows that she wants to write, but she’s unsure as to what, and her poetry certainly isn’t taking her anywhere. That’s all until she sees an advert looking for a rock critic for a national magazine. While her application is a review of the soundtrack to Annie – perhaps the opposite of rock and roll – she quickly finds herself with the job, and a growing personality away from her Wolverhampton council estate family and background. Soon it becomes more of an escape for her. Writing is no longer “putting a wish in a bottle” to provide hope of bringing money in to her home, it acts as fuel for her growing and potentially damaging alter-ego, Dolly Wilde.

Screenwriter Caitlin Moran adapts her somewhat autobiographical 2014 novel of the same name for the screen, with Beanie Feldstein wonderfully bringing to life the fictionalised 16 year old protagonist, still discovering herself and the world around her. An exciting world of freedom and possibility. During such moments when Johanna gazes at everything around her in awe and wonder the feeling of the film shifts into something close to fantasy. This is her ideal world, even when surrounded by businessmen that tower over her in spotless suits in a cramped lift, and nothing is going to stop her from exploring it. There’s an air of immense joy also captured in Feldstein’s performance during such moments that make them even more fantastical and act as a further escape for her character from the outside world. As she passionately types up her rave reviews of gigs that almost seem to be more like immensely energectic out-of-body-experiences everything else drifts away as a smile spreads across her face and nothing can stop her from fixedly punching away at the typewriter keys relaying her enthusiastic praise. However, such moments, while frequent, do find themselves broken quickly by reality. For instance a moment of uncomfortable harassment from one of the head-writers of the magazine, who commissions her work.

However, much like the moments of near fantasy, the bursts of seriousness are brief, and in this case somewhat few. There is a sense that a number of issues are strayed away from for a large proportion of the run-time; some with nothing more than a brief one line mention, leading to a feeling that seriousness isn’t as present as it perhaps could or should be amongst the elements of comedy and fantasy. While Johanna’s transformation from herself into her advanced pseudonym of Dolly Wilde begins to take a turn as her once passionate reviews turn into heinous hatchet jobs – all for the sake of further publication, and allegedly giving the readers (or rather the editors) what they want – does add some hints of drama a fair deal of comedy also comes from it. One particular sequence where she lies on her bed, talking to her brother in the other room, describing her various sexual exploits and self-taught lessons provides a couple of laughs, while also shows her developing and discovering the world around her, and herself. Building the girl that she is.

There is something interesting about the rapidly overtaking alter-ego as Johanna goes to more and more gigs, immediately connecting to a new passion as she abandons all cares and simply joins everyone in front of the stage leaping and raving to the sound of loud pulsating music in whatever dark, dimly lit venue she may be in. Or at least this is the case until she begins to walk in early before the gig actually starts, scribbling away scathing insults that could possibly ruin the band on stage, alongside her reputation. Yet, the most interesting and engaging content does remain the elements of comedy that land and the always enjoyable real world fantasies, mostly down to Beanie Feldstein’s engaging and ecstatic central performance.

Beanie Feldstein shines in this tale of a passionate writer and her damaging pseudonym. While the seriousness doesn’t always have time to shine and certain issues and elements could be dwelled upon a bit more the humour and joyful fantasies that Giedroyc and Moran help Johanna and the viewer escape into help pull the film along.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Clemency – Review

Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 52 minutes, Director – Chinonye Chukwu

A prison warden (Alfre Woodard) finds herself facing many moral issues when a death row inmate (Aldis Hodge) loudly insists his innocence, backed by his lawyer (Richard Schiff), family and protesters. Meanwhile her home life is becoming increasingly tense.

Being a prison warden dealing with death row inmates is undeniably one of the most morally challenging jobs a person could possibly have. The potential personal and psychological impact that it could have is almost unthinkable. Yet, for Bernadine Williams (Alfre Woodard) this is her everyday life, made increasingly stressful when media attempt to get into the prison that she’s in charge of after protesters begin to act outside the gates. Chanting against the soon-to-be-execution of inmate Anthony Woods (Aldis Hodge). Woods continues to proclaim his own innocence, although refusing to speak to Bernadine and the prison chaplain. Claiming that he was not behind a shooting several years earlier – something which his lawyer, Marty (Richard Schiff) has been fighting for this whole time.

This is very much a story of people at the end of their tether, in multiple ways. Marty is about to go into retirement, something that Anthony claims is him giving up, Bernadine finds herself in greater conflict between her job and her own personal opinions, especially in relation to the innocence of the next person to be executed in her prison, Anthony, who finds himself in increasing panic and worry that his life will be prematurely ended for a crime that he claims, alongside many other people, he didn’t commit. The film is very much a slow burn, yet because of this mixture of drama, primarily told from the viewpoint of Woodard’s conflicted warden – a perspective not often shown in the likes of death row dramas – there’s always something to grab on to. To be engaged and brought into the film by. While you may not always form a connection with the characters you certainly feel for them as you observe them and their actions, seeing inside their minds – as if you’re on the window side of a two-way mirror; making the drama more authentic and real.

Bernadine’s worklife troubles find themselves leaking into her homelife, making her relationship with her husband (Wendell Pierce) increasingly tense. During a heated discussion he claim that he’s been “living with an empty shell of a wife”. Telling Bernadine that her job is beginning to consume her and remove her from the rest of the world, only adding to her worries, all expressed behind a shielded, dead-pan face; all while still conveying the struggling identity and mindset that makes up the character. “No matter what I do or don’t do he’s dead” she exhales, believing herself to be powerless, despite having the most power in the prison, all adding to the in-depth character study that this film explores. The debate of morals, work and the death penalty as a whole, amongst various other things. By putting the prison warden in centre of the film’s events the arguments are further pushed and explored. At one point Bernadine tells Marty “You want to put it as good guys and bad guys, and I’m one of the bad guys” knowing, much like the audience, that things aren’t that simple.

Throughout the run-time Chinonye Chukwu’s direction shines in the strong performances of the cast. The way the camera is kept stationary on a number of occasions to heighten the emotion and impact of a number of scenes. As Bernadine tells Anthony what will happen to him on the day of his execution Hodge’s performance is kept in frame almost the entire time. As he seems frozen yet restless, endless thoughts of panic, fear, pain and worry racing through his mind all at once, all while his character intensely fights to hold back tears packs a great punch of emotion – something that Woodard almost expertly replicates within her own character at another point in the film. There are plenty of scenes just like this over the course of the film each with their own individual tone and flavour, never feeling dried-up or tired, and much of it comes down to Chukwu’s direction, the way that she deals with the heavy subject matter of the piece, never shying away from the facts, managing to convey an honest and in-depth character study all show a promising rising talent (this being Chukwu’s second feature) with a strong, interesting voice.

From the opening scene writer-director Chinonye Chukwu takes hold of an interesting angle to show the confliction of her central character as everything around her causes increasing debate in this finely held death row drama, all brought to life by three brilliantly emotional and layered central performances.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Days Of The Bagnold Summer – Review

Cert – 12, Run-time – 1 hour 25 minutes, Director – Simon Bird

When his plans to visit his Dad in Florida during the summer holidays collapse at the last minute 15 year old Daniel (Earl Cave) is forced to spend six weeks with his devoted, yet drab, Mum (Monica Dolan)

If it weren’t for it being based on Joff Winterhart’s 2012 graphic novel of the same name you would be forgiven for thinking that Days Of The Bagnold Summer screenwriter Lisa Owens had recorded the genuine conversations of a 50-something year old mother and her son, and had the cast of the film perform the lines verbatim. While the central characters of the film, Daniel (Earl Cave), a 15 year old metalhead, and his devoted mum Sue (Monica Dolan), a mild-mannered, seemingly drab librarian, could easily seem like stereotypes there’s something about the accuracy of the characters, and the performances that bring them to life, that avoids caricature and instead hits some form of recognition for the audience.

Daniel finds himself lost and more out of place than usual when his plans for the summer holidays collapse and vanish in an instant when his father’s expected child prevents him from travelling to Florida to meet him – something which Daniel believes is simply down to the fact that he isn’t wanted there. Therefore he finds himself spending six weeks at home enduring both the British summer and his mum. “But we’ll have fun” she insists to little response from her baggy-clothed son. Throughout the film Daniel shows very little response to his mum’s comments and questions. He often replies with one or two word answers. Yet Cave’s performance shows the sadness and anger behind his characters often dead-pan or miserable look.

Yet, aside from this and the seeming loneliness of the two central figures there is a fair deal of humour to be found within this film. Directed by Owens’ husband Simon Bird this is a different type of comedy to what some may be used to from the star known best for his TV acting roles in The Inbetweeners and Friday Night Dinner. There’s a light-hearted sense to the comedy that goes in hand with the equally light elements of drama that the film also introduces. Catching the conflicts and connections that surface amongst families during the British summertime. Throughout the film there are rising tensions between Sue and Daniel, both reaching a breaking point as things don’t quite go the way they would hope over the course of the quick 85 minute run-time – something which is heightened by the lingering sense of summer in the background of the film. However, their bond is still clearly shown. There’s something about these two recognisable figures that you almost instantly connect with, never laughing at them but always with the actors.

On a number of occasions the film does specialise in what’s become known as ‘cringe humour’. Lingering on the awkwardness of the interactions of the two titular Bagnold’s as they try to converse with the outside world. Predominantly this comes from the perspective of Sue as she has doorstep conversations with the excessively relaxed and easy-going mother of Daniel’s friend (played by Bird’s Friday Night Dinner co-star Tamsin Greig) or goes out on a date – to the amusing disgust of teenager Daniel. While some do come close to being so awkward that the laugh almost doesn’t quite happen there are still a number of successful hits throughout the film. None coming close to the brief appearance of Tim Key channelling the energy of Michael Scott with the cringe levels of David Brent. Luckily there are plenty of one-liner gags and interactions free from awkwardness that also provide laughs. All creating a fine blend of naturalism for the viewer to connect with, yet still managing to allow them to escape to another world that the entire collaborative team pour care and effort into creating.

This is a wonderfully upbeat and joyous piece. Celebrating families and their summer holiday struggles. Not a great deal happens throughout the film, yet it certainly avoids the dread that Daniel feels as his Mum reassures him “I’m afraid you’re stuck with boring old me for six weeks, but we’ll have fun”. Fun may not be something that this film aims for, but it certainly has cheer and enjoyment and a truly funny streak running throughout it, with a number of laugh out loud moments coming from the heartful relationship between the two fantastically performed central figures. With both lead actors bringing to life a wonderfully natural and caringly written screenplay. This is a pure joy from start to finish, and at the heart of it is a genuine, believable relationship between two almost perfectly written people.

From start to finish Days Of The Bagnold Summer is a fantastically natural thanks to a brilliant screenplay and two equally accurate central performances from Dolan and Cave, both of whom create a genuine bond and relationship that brings you into their lives and takes you along for a joyful and funny 85 minute summer.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Simon Brew ‘Film Stories’ Lockdown Interview

Founder and editor of Film Stories Simon Brew kindly joins me again, this time to discuss all the work that he and Film Stories have been doing during the coronavirus lockdown, alongside the impact that this has had on the independent magazine sector, and much more.

Simon can be found through his Twitter here.
While Film Stories can be found via its Twitter account, or its website.

For those who are interested in hearing Simon’s song requests they can be heard by following the below links:
Rainbow Connection – Kermit The Frog
Cuban Pete – Jim Carrey

Nick De Semlyen ‘Wild And Crazy Guys’ Paperback Interview

Film journalist and Empire Magazine writer, and current Acting Editor, Nick De Semlyen kindly joins me to discuss the upcoming paperback release of his book Wild And Crazy Guys – which will be released on 11th June.

Nick can be found through his Twitter account. His book can be bought in both hardback and paperback form, from June 11th, here alongside through other sites; and bookshops when reopened – the paperback can be pre-ordered before its release. The audiobook can be found here.

For those who want to listen to Nick’s song requests you can find them by following the links below:
Holiday Road – Lindsey Buckingham
Party All The Time – Eddie Murphy

Tom Webb ‘The Easy Bit’ Interview

Director Tom Webb joins me to discuss the upcoming release of his feature debut, the documentary The Easy Bit – which will be released on April 29th.

The Easy Bit can be found through it’s Twitter account. The film, when released on April 29th, can be found here, it is available to pre-order before then.

If you want to listen to the songs that Tom requested they can be found here;
Happy Together – The Turtles
When The Levee Breaks – Led Zeppelin
Somewhere Over The Rainbow – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

Trolls: World Tour – Review

Cert – U, Run-time – 1 hour 30 minutes, Directors – Walt Dhorn, David P. Smith

When Queen Barb (Rachel Bloom) of the Rock Trolls sets out to destroy all music, except rock, Queen Poppy (Anna Kendrick) ventures into new realms outside of Pop Village to stop her.

Back in 2016 Trolls taught audiences, mostly under the age of 6, to “find their happy place”. Now, four years later, the fuzzy, intensely-coloured characters – based on the once popular naked, plastic, high-haired miniature figures of the same name – return to the screen, although at this time not quite the big-screen in what has been billed on some posters as the “Happiest. Movie. Ever”. And it certainly seems as if Trolls: World Tour is aiming for that. Opening with now Queen Poppy (Anna Kendrick) loving her new life as royalty in Pop Village. Everything is upbeat and wonderful as everyone belts out loud pop songs in large scale musical numbers involving almost every single troll in the village – including Branch (Justin Timberlake), who found happiness and his colours at the end of the previous film, despite still be a rather pessimistic character in the sequel.

World Tour very much focuses on Poppy, Branch is sidelined as a supporting character, and almost only seems to be present because he was the lead in the first film. He has a mild storyline of wanting to admit his true feelings to Poppy, something seen in a number of sequels like this – making the world larger instead of look deeper into the one that already existed. In fact much of Trolls: World Tour seems to be based around sub-plots for the convenience of the later stages of the main storyline, or small bursts of ideas to fuel another small burst later in the film. All amongst the backdrop of sugary positivity and music.

Poppy and Branch, alongside Biggie (James Corden) and, what seems to be his pet, Mr Dinkles (Kevin Michel Richardson) – a role that seems to have been increased more than necessary because ‘James Corden’, venture into the other realms, like a stuffed-felt-based version of The Lego Movie – where different genres of music lie. From country and classical to techno and funk. All to warn the Kings and Queens of such areas that Queen Barb (Rachel Bloom) of the Rock Trolls is coming with her Mad Max style legion of dark rockers to obtain all the strings that help to create the different genres of music. Her aim is to be able to put them all together to play a power chord that will get rid of all music except rock, therefore creating an undivided world. Much of the reasons behind this, like a number of elements from the film, stem from cliche – something which this film suffers from a great deal. There doesn’t seem to be a great deal of originality within this sequel, however that really isn’t it’s biggest downfall.

The main reason why Trolls: World Tour doesn’t succeed is down to the fact that it takes almost everything that caused a headache in the first film and turns it up to eleven. This might be alright, as was the case with the original film, for those under the age of six or seven, but perhaps not quite for the adults who will have to sit through this with them. The endlessly shouted assertions that everything is alright and happy even gets too much at times. The whole thing almost gets a bit too much and repetitive, especially when fuelled with the world by world nature of the film, with only a short interval of sub-plot to allow for a new ‘set’ to be built and the run-time to be extended.

There are some small, brief glimpses throughout the run-time that World Tour might itself pick up and become something better. Most of these moments lie within the character of Barb, the reasons behind her intentions and simply her actions, alongside the music that she and the Rock Trolls delight in – and her elderly, chair-bound father; played by Ozzy Osbourne, certainly one of the more obscure ‘how did they get them!?’ pieces of casting in a film. Yet none of this is enough to distract from the overall nature of the film, which almost seems to scream positivity in the hope that it’ll be able to distract from the cliche even for just a minute or two. And while there are moments that don’t feature mass amounts of glitter the film quickly reverts to it’s original, overly-exuberant style. If there was more to Trolls: World Tour – as was the case with the first film – then it might work and be more bearable, however it’s rather similar in its style and tone. Trying to force multiple messages through, all of which are almost obvious from the start, and heavily relying on the glaringly bright and colourful nature of the loud musical numbers, this sequel is more of a slight-step down, and certainly more of a headache, than an improvement on the first.

Even if there does seem to be a hint more story, amongst various small sub-plots and ideas, than the first Trolls: World Tour is still predominantly filled with loud, glaringly glittery and exuberant headache-inducing musical numbers that might work for young kids, but perhaps not for those who have to watch it with them, or anyone else.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Four Kids And It – Review

Cert – PG, Run-time – 1 hour 49 minutes, Director – Andy De Emmony

When a couple (Paula Patton and Matthew Goode) decide to go on holiday to introduce each others children to each other the kids discover a magical creature (Michael Caine) in the sand that proceeds to grant them various wishes.

Back in 2004 E Nesbit’s novel Five Children And It received a mixed, yet somewhat sub-par, when it was adapted for the big screen. Now, it’s the turn of Jacqueline Wilson’s sort of sequel to get the film treatment. Instead of a quaint countryside setting to observe and play around in with no technology in sight this modern take shows a world of phones, internet celebrities, pop music and frequent use of the Nintendo Switch. However, central protagonist Ros (Teddie Malleson-Allen) relies on books to keep her occupied, her dream is to be an author. The only other dream she seems to have is to reunite her separated parents – an idea pushed further by the people she finds herself surrounded by.

It’s the meeting that Ros and her brother have with the children of her father’s (Matthew Goode) girlfriend (Paula Patton) that begins to bring more stress and worry to her life, something which seems to be reciprocated by her opposite, Maudie (Ashley Aufderheide). As is to be expected the children don’t get on, something which only goes lightly noticed by their parents, who are too busy trying to get it off to notice anything else. Thus allowing the minors to go unoccupied to the beach where they discover a pale, hairy, easily disgruntled sand troll (somehow voiced by Michael Caine). The sand troll – who looks very much like E.T. took a tragically rough turn after leaving Elliott – reveals to the children that he can grant them any wish they want. And of course they use their wishes for their own good, despite a joke about world peace – “finally!” proclaims the creature as he begins to cast the wish before being stopped so that the children can have their real wish.

As the group begin to bond and get to know each other more Ros’ aims are still based around her own personal family life – trying to contact her Mum, who’s apparently at university, in the hope that she can get her to just meet her Dad, despite the fact that such attempts never quite work. As the storyline trundles along these tracks everything seems rather formulaic. Despite the possibilities that the film could have with the titular creature that the plot relies on there’s not a great deal done to break any barriers within Sky Cinema’s latest offering. Everything simply falls rather flat, bordering on being episodic with limp idea after limp idea. Leading to a slow feature that will likely, as has been the case with most Sky Cinema features so far, be quickly forgotten and pass to the back of the catalogue of films available on the service.

Amongst everything that’s going on the film even manages to throw Russel Brand in as antagonistic figure Tristan Trent. The owner of a grand house near to where the two families are staying. For many years he’s been aiming to find the wish granting creature to use it for his own personal gain – somehow his wish to be rich is wrong, but the children can easily wish for fame and attention. Brand’s performance certainly isn’t the hammiest of the film – and some might view him as what Jim Carrey was to Sonic The Hedgehog, while others might simply see him as just another performance in the film, in a number of ways it could simply come down to how you view Russell Brand. However, for the most part, almost every single performance is rather overdone, as if each cast member, including Caine, is just waiting for the paycheck so that they can jump into their next project – almost as if director Andy De Emmony – whose previous experience heavily lies in TV comedies such as Red Dwarf, Spitting Image and Father Ted; potentially explaining the slightly jumpy and episodic nature that the film has – and also wanted to get things in the can quickly so that he could move on himself.

There’s certainly a lot missing from Four Kids And It, including a fair deal of charm, wit and heart – meaning that the humour lacks, although most of the humour seems to rely on Patton and Goode’s adult characters never getting a moment of privacy so that they can fulfil their own ‘wishes’. And with a story that never truly comes together it simply falls, feeling rather basic and uninspired. It’s certainly not the film that’ll help to pass the time during lockdown and self-isolation – especially with the family.

The only thing that doesn’t quite feel underdone about Four Kids And It are the handful of overdone performances that lie throughout it. This is a rather lacking and uninspired feature. Despite the fantasy nature and potential, nothing is ever truly lived up to, leaving this feeling rather dull and in the end it falls flat.

Rating: 2 out of 5.