Molly Moon and the Incredible Book of Hypnotism
dir Christopher N Rowley
scr Georgia Byng, Christopher N Rowley, Tom Butterworth, Chris Hurford
prd Simon Bosanquet, Ileen Maisel, Lawrence Elman, Georgia Byng
with Raffey Cassidy, Dominic Monaghan, Lesley Manville, Emily Watson, Jadon Carnelly Morris, Celia Imrie, Joan Collins, Anne-Marie Duff, Ben Miller, Sadie Frost, Omid Djalili, Tallulah Evans
release US 14.Aug.15, UK 2.Dec.16
15/UK Amber 1h38
Molly Moon and the Incredible Book of Hypnotism
Don't look into the eyes: Cassidy

monaghan manville watson
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Molly Moon and the Incredible Book of Hypnotism Based on the first in Georgia Byng's novel series, this goofy romp is written and directed without a hint of subtlety. Some nice performances just about save it, but the Harry Potteresque premise and corny plot make it little more than pre-teen wish fulfilment. And because filmmakers clumsily strain to be wacky and childish, the movie will only appeal to the very young.

In a grim orphanage in rural England, Molly (Cassidy) has grown up amid the tyranny of headmistress Miss Adderstone (Manville), the kind words of Miss Trinklebury (Watson) and the terrible cooking of Edna (Imrie). When her best pal Rocky (Morris) is adopted by a London couple (Miller and Frost), Molly puts to use the hypnosis powers she has learned from a book. But as she tracks him down, she's sidetracked using her skills to become the newest singing-dancing sensation. Meanwhile, wannabe crook Nockman (Monaghan) is trying to get his hands on the book.

The movie is lively and so loose that it feels half-planned. There's some snappy interaction, and moments that are sharp-edged or even downright nasty, but most of the movie is simply cartoonish. Director Rowley indulges in wacky effects, sappy emotion and awkwardly staged action, working with a script so generic and frantic that nothing ever gains traction. And most characters are broadly overacted by the starry cast.

Cassidy has enough presence to create a believable urchin, generating some nice camaraderie with the other orphans and the emotive, underserved Watson. By contrast, Monaghan's crook is never more than a slapstick villain with a demanding mother (a full-on Collins). And while Manville is clearly having a ball stampeding over everyone, the general direction to the cast seems to have been, "Ham it up for all you're worth."

Properly nutty movies require a lot more skill than is demonstrated here. And the ultimate message about being honest with yourself and others rings extra hollow because the movie is so relentlessly trite about big issues like adoption, theft and child endangerment. It may just be a silly adventure, but the second act is devoted to a precocious pre-teen who steals fame and fortune by hypnotising everyone into thinking she has talent. Which of course is a dangerous fantasy to encourage, because it seems to happen rather frequently in the real world.

cert pg themes, language 9.Aug.15

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