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Clearly attempting to fill the void left by the end of the Harry Potter franchise, Christopher N. Rowley‘s cinematic adaptation of the first book in Georgia Byng‘s popular Molly Moon series teems with talented British thespians. But that’s pretty much where the similarities end, as Molly Moon and the Incredible Book of Hypnotism is a mostly wan affair that will have little appeal beyond its target audience of young girls.
Raffey Cassidy, so impressive in Disney’s recent Tomorrowland, plays the title role of a young orphan living in the Dickensian Hardwick House Orphanage. Run by the tyrannical Edna (Celia Imrie), it’s the sort of forbidding gothic institution in which its young charges are fed a steady diet of fish soup — with the heads included. Only the kindly employee Miss Trinklebury (Emily Watson, making a fleeting appearance) provides any solace to the beleaguered children.
Molly’s life takes a dramatic turn when she comes upon a rare old book — Hypnotism, An Ancient Art — in the library where she frequently takes refuge. She proves more than adept at learning its lessons and suddenly is able to mesmerize people by having them stare into her eyes, which glow bright green. At first she uses her newfound powers in a relatively innocuous fashion, such as inducing the orphanage’s cook to produce a lovely pasta meal. But she eventually manages to use her magic to make her way to London where, thanks to her mesmeric abilities, she usurps a bratty young pop singer and becomes the star of a popular television music show.
Unfortunately, she also attracts the attention of Nockman (Dominic Monaghan), a low-level criminal with mommy issues —who wouldn’t have issues, when Mommy is played by Joan Collins? — who desperately wants the book to use its powers to rob a bank. After kidnapping Molly’s dog, he forces her to participate in his nefarious scheme.
Featuring such veteran English performers as Lesley Manville, Anne-Marie Duff, Ben Miller and Sadie Frost, among others, in supporting roles, the film was co-written by the original book’s author and two others, but it lacks the wit and charm necessary to interest any but the most undemanding preteen viewers. Marred by its inconsistent tone and tendency toward unamusing slapstick, it does, at least, benefit from the strong presence of its young star, whose liquid eyes, even when not digitally enhanced, effortlessly cast a spell. Regrettably, they’re not bewitching enough to hypnotize audiences into falling for this film.
Production: Amber Entertainment, Lipsync Productions
Cast: Raffey Cassidy, Emily Watson, Dominic Monaghan, Lesley Manville, Celia Imrie, Anne-Marie Duff, Joan Collins
Director: Christopher N. Rowley
Screenwriters: Georgia Byng, Tom Butterworth, Chris Hurford
Producers: Simon Bosanquet, Georgia Byng, Lawrence Elman, Ileen Maisel
Executive producers: Philip Alberstat, Norman Merry, Shezi Nackvi
Director of photography: Remi Adefarasin
Production designer: John Beard
Editors: Dan Farrell, Lesley Walker
Costume designer: Ruth Myers
Composer: Peter Raeburn
Rated PG, 98 minutes
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