A rather simplistic spin on the orphan fantasy tale we all know and love, Molly Moon presents its pre-teen audience with the full cinematic package: action, crime, drama, romance, comedy and a final touch of Christmas warmth, coinciding with its winter release date.
This film contains an unnerving abundance of child actors and banal dialogue such as “believe in yourself” and “Molly Moon, the rotten bad apple!”. Casting a young girl with supermodel looks to play someone described in the books as a plain, potato-nosed child is predictable and a bit disappointing, but Raffey Cassidy acts compellingly for her age, and is supported by an all-star cast including the kindly Emily Watson, a delightfully treacherous Joan Collins and Dominic Monaghan providing comic relief through awkwardly slapstick writing.
Molly Moon, abandoned at birth, is a rebellious girl growing up in an orphanage run by a cruel, unforgiving headmistress (Lesley Manville). After being inexplicably aided by the kind librarian (Anne-Marie Duff) in acquiring the Incredible Book of Hypnotism, she realises, in a pleasantly spooky scene – staring at her own magnetic eyes through the washing machine door – that she has the gift. The young leading lady then proceeds to effortlessly con her way into a chartered coach, a luxury hotel and international stardom. Ultimately, Molly learns that love and friendship are the most valuable assets of all and that cheating hurts everyone involved.
The picture does its best to keep its audience captivated by skipping through scenery like pages in a colouring book: from dreary orphanage to rustic English village to vivid visions of central London and, finally, back to the orphanage, not so dreary anymore after such unlikely adventures in the metropolis as taking part in a bank robbery for Monaghan’s odd and unnecessary side plot.
Youngsters may not notice plot holes, a roughly patched-together storyline or outdated special effects, but Molly Moon fails to create memorable characters and a whimsical alternate universe like other children’s live-action movies do (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Matilda, Paddington). It is, however, dynamic enough to keep parents awake and younger children entertained.