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Friday, October 23, 2015

Molly Moon and the Incredible Book of Magnetism

Really, really not good enough...

This review is also up at Channel 24

What it's about

Molly Moon is a smart, bookish and warmhearted orphan girl, living in a small orphanage in rural England, whose life takes a sudden and dramatic change when she finds a book on hypnosis at her local library.

What we thought

It's tempting to give the frankly fairly terrible Molly Moon and the Incredible Book of Hypnotism a pass just because it's a kids film, and a mostly harmless one at that, but there's something incredibly disingenuous, not to mention condescending, about accepting something this woefully below par just because it happens to be aimed at fairly young kids. In a world where Mary Poppins, School of Rock, Paddington and the Harry Potter series are readily available to rent, buy and/or download – and that's to say nothing of the countless brilliant animated kids films out there – there really is no excuse for something this lame and lazy.

And “lazy” is really the operative word here. That the story itself is incredibly far fetched – in particular, what with its portrayal of hypnotism being stretched to include some pretty powerful levels of mind control - is forgivable in and of itself as fairy tales aimed at kids are always allowed to rely on “fairy tale logic” but what is significantly less forgivable is how half-assed everything from the plotting, to the characterization to the basic moral of the film all are.

I haven't read the original novel by Georgia Byng, but there is a sense throughout the film that rather than telling a remotely coherent (and yes, a film can have “fairy tale logic” and be coherent at the same time) story, it's far more interested in strip mining better works for a cheap cash-in. The whole hypnotism as mind control thing is baloney, of course, but it also just feels like a desperate attempt to give our hero some sort of special power, but without ever thinking through what they're going to do with it.

At the centre of the film, for example, there's this awful sequence where our young heroine gets her wish of being famous, as she hypnotizes millions of people to think she's this brilliant pop star. It's a sequence that taps into the cult of celebrity phenomenon with increasingly annoying results but is most problematic because, like everything else in the film, it under-develops both its metaphor and its moral. The best children's stories understand subtext and they often use their fantastical trappings to actually enrich the lives of their audience but, for all the refrains of believing in yourself and the importance of friendship and of being true to yourself (all simple, worthy lessons) that pop up throughout the movie, it utterly fails to use this central sequence as anything more than a cheap, and perhaps morally questionable gag.

But then everything else about the film is a muddled mess so why should this be surprising. Its script combines rubbish slapstick with stilted plotting with dire characterizations and the direction is as flat and televisual as your average Disney channel made-for-TV flick, which is at its worst during the gaudy London sequences. It wastes its top-notch adult cast (Emily Watson, Joan Collins (?!) and Anne-Marie Duff) and, aside for the really quite watchable Raffey Cassidy (who was excellent in Tomorrowland) as Molly herself, the kids are very cute but not very good in their roles - though I blame the director more than the kids themselves for this.


Everything about Molly Moon and the Incredible Book of Hypnotism (a subtle change from the novel's title of Molly Moon's Incredible Book of Hypnotism that's clearly there to cash in on Harry Potter, as can be seen by the film's very Potter-ish title card) simply isn't good enough. It's cloying, badly written, blandly directed, dumb and morally iffy. This is one your kids can very safely skip/


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