A movie directed by Joe Johnston
A delightful children's tale, 5 CHILDREN AND IT follows the adventures of five children as they shelter at their uncle's house during World War I. With their father stuck in the trenches and fighting the good fight, the five kids unearth a fairy … see full wiki
Overused plot, stock location, stock characters
Good for ages 8 to an immature 13. Otherwise, don't bother.
Five Children and It, no need to be clever, the title pretty much says it all. It is five syllables long, leaving 12 more for a haiku and either way you want to slice it, it is still tripe no matter how many ways I can mix a metaphor.
It is World War I and children are being sent from London to the countryside. The five children have to walk in the rain to find the house of an uncle they have rarely seen. When they get there, they find that everyone in the house thinks it’s Thursday because the cook is making goose and goose is always Thursday, ergo, the children are early. Oh boy, 5 city children in a partially gothic manorial home and grounds and eccentricities abounding within (how many Brits have used that background before YAWN). The children are warned not to go to the greenhouse, they go; they discover a sand fairy that can grant wishes. They wish and find that wishes come true in ways you don’t expect and that they don’t last forever. The rest of the film is just them trying to hide their wish’s mess ups and otherwise hiding from the uncle and the cousin while being protected by the cook/maid who is the only one who knows which end is up, east, or whatever.
You cannot make a movie about the way childhood disappears without Freddie Highmore (Robert in this carnation)—it is a rule, a law, an edict from the goddess of media that you cannot do so—he will remain forever at the age of 12 so he can always be just on the cusp of the complexities of putting childlike things in their place while learning the adult things ahead. I have enjoyed this, until now. Now it’s just getting tiresome. However, his performance is solid.
Cyril (Jonathan Bailey), the older brother is also solid. He tries to be adult-like but finds himself liking the idea and the practice of falling back into the childlike situations that Robert gets the children into.
Apart from that, the two girls are interchangeable and the 2 year old has no speaking part, so is as convincing as any other 2 year old. Other than that, Kenneth Branagh, the uncle, plays the same character he did in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets only 2 year earlier. Zoe Wannamaker (whom I really do like), plays Martha, maid and cook, she was also scored from the HP movies too. She is more dynamic here, but only because she has a few more scenes. Eddie Izzard is the voice of It or the sand fairy, but anyone could have done it. It wasn’t the Eddie Izzard of the stand-up type, it is Mr. Izzard as an animated James Mason trying to sound a bit like Henry Kissinger.
I like the theme. When a child makes that first jump into realizing that the imagination has limits, that the tooth fairy is just a caring parent, then their world begins to go into redefinition. Movies like this one (however badly) or the brilliant Finding Neverland try to capture those instances where the moment occurs that the first instance of the adult appears. Five Children brings it up but refuses to deal with it. The stronger Robert is able to pull Cyril back into the careful chaos of the childhood they had always known. There were at least two moments where Cyril could have taken Robert to task in a way that would have broken hearts because it would be a slap in the face, but a slap that the movie implied was going to happen.
This happens in Finding Neverland and I fall apart every time I see it. Children cannot see forward into the complexity of the world adults have built over eons and that all of us have to be for at least a few hours each day. But adults can look back. Films like Five Children can serve as a child’s story of adventure and an adult story of the bittersweet necessity of leaving the magic behind.
Five Children is fine for kids from about 8 to an immature 13, but past that it is not worth risking. It is not for an adult wanting anything more than a few cheap laughs.
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