Easter weekend in lockdown – a kids’ film and a teen film, and both of them set in the present day. Not my usual thing, but I thoroughly enjoyed both of them. I do, however, now feel like Methuselah, because I think my childhood probably had more in common with those in school stories from the 1920s than with those in the era of mobile phones, social media and e-mail! Are “school gossip” websites actually a thing? Just the thought of them makes me cringe! I haven’t read the books that either of these films are based on, so can’t comment on whether or not they’re faithful adaptations, but they’re both really lovely, feelgood films, with nice, happy endings, and I think we could probably all do with a bit of good cheer the moment.
They also both score highly in terms of diversity, which I know can still be an issue some with kids’ books/films. We’ve got a mixed-race family in “Four Kids and It”; and, in “Love, Simon”, we’ve got a multi-racial group of friends, and Simon’s black Jewish boyfriend coming out to his dad over the Chanukah candles. And I love the fact that one of Simon’s best mates is obsessed with David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo. American teen stuff *never* mentioned football in my day! I also love Michael Caine doing the voiceover for the Psammead, which looks a bit like ET. These are two genuinely delightful films, for viewers of all ages.
Just as an aside, on the subject of feeling like Methuselah, I had the Now 80s music channel on for background noise whilst reading last night. The presenter was Timmy Mallett. I kept expecting him to start singing the Wacaday song or smacking someone with his mallet. Er, moving swiftly on …
Four Kids and It is based on Jacqueline Wilson’s Four Children and It, which in turn is based on E Nesbit’s legendary Five Children and It. Instead of five Edwardian siblings, we’ve got a “blended family” – a British man and an American woman, each with two kids who aren’t very happy about their parents splitting up and have yet to learn about this new relationship, who have got together and brought their respective offspring to a holiday home in Cornwall. The four kids find the Psammead (Sand Fairy) on the beach, and bond over various wishes which, as in the E Nesbit book, all go wrong. One of them wants to be a pop star, and Cheryl whatever-surname-she-uses-these-days turns up and there’s a sell-out concert at the O2 Arena, although there’s no moralising about how she should have wished to be something more worthy, as there might have been in an older film. Another one wants to meet the children from the original book, so they go back in time. There’s also a baddie, played by Russell Brand, who kidnaps the Psammead but, thanks to the kids, ends up as the loser, with the Psammead going back under the sand to enjoy a good long rest.
This has had rather poor reviews, but I enjoyed it. It’s hardly an all-time classic, but it’s very watchable, if you’re after something light. And I thought that adapting the Psammead storyline as a way of helping a blended family to bond was an excellent idea.
Love, Simon is based on Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda. Simon is a 17-year-old teenage boy in a well-to-do area of Atlanta, with a loving family and a group of close friends, none of whom know that he’s gay. He starts corresponding by anonymous e-mail with another closeted gay boy at his school, but neither knows the other’s identity. Seeing as mobile phone reception at school is bad and he can’t wait till he gets home to check his e-mails, he logs in on one of the school computers, forgets to log out … and another boy, Martin, reads the e-mails, takes screenshots of them, and starts hassling him. Martin fancies Simon’s friend Abby, but Abby looks like she’s going to get together with a second friend, Nick, so Simon wades in and tries to get Nick together with a third friend, Leah …
… and it all gets horribly messy, as things can do with all that who-fancies-whom stuff at school. Martin is humiliated when he asks Abby out in public and she says no, and tries to divert attention from himself by posting screenshots of the e-mails online. Simon’s friends and family are fine with him being gay, but the friends are upset that they all got dragged into it with the muddled matchmaking, and Simon ends up falling out with both his own gang and the mystery e-mail pal, his classmate Bram.
However, it all works out in the end, everyone makes up, and Simon and Bram get together. There’s the usual romantic angst you get in teen films, plus the unpleasantness of the blackmailing storyline; but there are plenty of laughs, a lot of it’s rather sweet, especially the conversations he has with his mum and dad, and you keep rooting for Simon and Bram to find each other in real life. As with Four Kids and It, it builds towards a happy ending and everything works out OK, and I really enjoyed it.
It’s a lovely warm, sunny, Easter weekend, and I wish I could be spending it in the Lakes, the Peaks, the Dales, Blackpool or some of the National Trust houses, but these are strange times, and we all need to do our bit. Sky and other platforms are doing theirs by making these films available to us, some of them a lot earlier than might have been the case otherwise, so watch, enjoy, and stay safe x.