Australian Council on Children and the Media

Four Kids and It

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Short takes

Not suitable under 8; parental guidance to 12 (violence, themes of parental separation)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Four Kids and It
  • a review of Four Kids and It completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 28 September 2020.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Not suitable due to violence and themes of parental separation.
Children aged 8–12 Parental guidance recommended due to violence and themes of parental separation.
Children over the age of 12 Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Four Kids and It
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes and violence.
Length 110 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Four Kids and It is inspired by the E. Nesbit novel Five Children and It which was published in 1902. The film steps us forward into the present where two sets of siblings, who have never met each other before, are reluctantly forced to spend their holiday together in a cottage because their mother and father have started dating. The children are very unhappy about the arrangement! On the beautiful Penzance cliff tops, the four children come across a little cave leading down to a beautiful sandy beach, where they uncover (just like in the book, set 100 years ago) the mysterious and comical ‘Psammead’, a wish-granting sand fairy. The children are allowed to ask for one wish each day, but the wishes must be chosen carefully, and they always end at sunset. As the children overcome their initial dislike of each other and come to terms with their parent’s new relationship, they also have some wild adventures, making wishes that get them into all sorts of scrapes and mischief. Meanwhile, the eccentric landowner next door starts becoming suspicious and it turns out that he wants the Psammead all to himself. Will they be able to save the Psammead from a terrible fate?

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Family breakdown; Divorce; Blended families; Magic; Fantasy creatures; Animal cruelty.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • The two teenage girls have several physical fights, hitting and punching each other.
  • One of the teenage girls is very angry about her mother and father separating and she expresses herself by smashing and damaging things and being generally aggressive.
  • A man drags a girl by the ear into a room where he points a gun (close range) at her head, cornering her and threatening her with it.
  • A girl shoots lasers out of her fingertips and sets a man’s bottom on fire.
  • The children are held at gunpoint against their will and escorted into a building.
  • The sand-fairy is held captive in a glass cage where he is given electric shocks.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • The scene where the sand-fairy appears is a little scary. At first, he appears as just a shape moving around under the sand. It is moving fast and sucking objects (like the little girl’s doll and her shoe) downwards into the sand. The four children are very scared and try to escape from it. As soon as the creature pops out and you realise that it’s a friendly creature, then it is a lot less scary.
  • Some children might find the Sand-fairy a little scary. He is quite a strange looking little monster – but he has friendly eyes and a kind voice.
  • The man who lives in the large mansion next to the cottage is a very eccentric character and although he is comical, he is also threatening. Some small children might find him either scary or unsettling. He does things like: taking a close-up photo of one of the girls without asking for permission (she looks like a portrait he has in his house and he is intrigued and want to compare them); looking for the children on the cliffs using binoculars; and showing the children his creepy taxidermy collection. He then goes on to capture the children in his house, with his assistants holding laser guns to their heads.
  • When the children wish that they could fly, one of the girls is seen floating upwards into the sky. She is a little worried until she gets the hang of it.
  • A little boy climbs to the top of a steep cliff and then he is hanging for dear life and his sister must rescue him with a rope.
  • The eccentric neighbour tries to destroy the sand-fairy’s cave and beach, crashing into it with a bulldozer and making it collapse. The children escape through the cave with the sand-fairy on their back.
  • The neighbour wishes for more gold than anyone could dream of – his house is flooded with gold coins that threaten to drown him. The house falls and collapses around him.
  • A man eats a worm on the beach and it looks really gross. He then gets covered in bird poo whilst climbing the cliff.
  • The sand-fairy collapses, unconscious and the children think he is going to die. It is an emotional moment.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Children in this age group may also find the above scenes scary or disturbing.
  • Children in this age group may be more sensitive to the themes of parental separation – particularly those that have experienced this in their own lives. There are a lot of scenes where the two teenage girls are feeling sad and betrayed by their parents. One girl really misses her father and feels abandoned by him. The other girl really misses her mother and doesn’t really understand why she has left. There are some teary and emotional moments.
  • Ros watches a video of her mother and father when they were together and cries.
  • Smash (13-year-old girl), says that her mother won’t care that they are missing because all she cares about is her “dumb job”.
  • There is a scene where the two adults have a quarrel about the children.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • Children in this age group may also be sensitive to the themes of parental separation (please see above).

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Nothing further of concern.

Product placement

  • None noted.

Sexual references

There are some sexual and romantic references in this movie, including:

  • Ros’s father and Smash’s mother are routinely seen kissing and stroking each other and are always alluding to the fact that they wish they could take it further. For example, they are lying next to each other on a picnic rug and she says suggestively, “Maybe we should stay here and…ah….”.
  • Ros’s father squeezes the mother’s bottom and they sink to the floor, hidden behind the kitchen counter giggling suggestively.
  • When discussing why her dad has left her mum to live with another woman, the little 5-year-old girls says, “Her tight 20-year-old tooshie reeled him in”.
  • Ros asks Smash about how to get a boyfriend. She replies that you get their attention by hitting them on the arm. Ros tries this on the beach with a cute boy who is surfing, the guy asks her to eat ice-cream with him and they take lots of selfies together.
  • The father and mother jokingly pick up some African masks and pretend to kiss each other with them on. The creepy neighbour comes in and says that he doesn’t want to interrupt their “ethnically insensitive erotica”.
  • The eccentric neighbour makes a wish that grants him a “purple lady army” which is a group of women with 1960s haircuts dressed in skin-tight purple jumpsuits and carrying laser guns.

Nudity and sexual activity

  • None noted.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Adults drinking wine.
  • 5-year-old goes to take a small bottle of alcohol from a mini-bar but is stopped by older girl.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language and name calling in this movie, including:

  • Damn
  • Butts
  • Loser
  • Sucky.

In a nutshell

Four Kids and It is an easy watch. It has some funny moments as well as lightly touching on sadder themes of parental separation. The sand-fairy is a little scary when he first appears, but he is a great little animated monster with a very friendly voice (the very recognisable voice of Michael Caine!) and a kind heart. Russel Brand’s caricature of an English eccentric is totally over the top and silly, which many kids will love and find hilarious. Parents should know that although there is not a lot that will really scare children, the scenes of gun-pointing and holding people hostage make it a little too violent for those under the age of 8.

The main messages from this movie are that sometimes parents are better off separated than together and that it is ok for your parents to start again with someone new.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • It is good to switch off technology and spend time with friends and family.
  • It is natural to be sad or angry when parents separate from each other.
  • Be careful what you wish for – wishes are powerful.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • Anger management – Smash is really upset about her mum and dad separating, she expresses this by being aggressive and smashing things and generally being badly behaved. What would be a better way of expressing anger?
  • It can be really sad when your parents need to separate. Parents may wish to discuss ways that children can find help when they find themselves in emotional situations. Who can you talk to about your feelings?
  • Do you think it was fair that the mother and father surprised their children with their ‘new relationship’ when they arrived at the house? Is that a responsible way to behave?
  • Do you think that Smash’s suggestion (that the best way to get a boy’s attention is to go up and hit him in the arm) is a good one? Is violence a good way to start a relationship/friendship?

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