This desperately terrible children’s fantasy is an unpleasant mishmash of dated slapstick, unwittingly sinister adventure, and icky magic.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing I’m “biast” (con): nothing I have not read the source material
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
From its frankly amazing all-star, Anglophile-favorites cast — Emily Watson, Dominic Monaghan, Celia Imrie, Anne-Marie Duff, Ben Miller, Lesley Manville; plus Joan Collins — to the font used in its title design, Molly Moon and the Incredible Book of Hypnotism would like you to believe you are in for some Harry Potter-style awesomeness. Be not fooled. This desperately terrible children’s fantasy, based on the first book in the YA series by Georgia Byng, is an unpleasant mishmash of hopelessly dated over-the-top slapstick, orphan-in-the-big-city adventure that ranges from unlikely to dangerous to unwittingly sinister, and icky magic that is meant to be charming and is instead deeply disturbing. Orphan Molly Moon (Raffey Cassidy: Tomorrowland) escapes her terrible life in a group home that would appall Charles Dickens — the abuses Molly and the other kids suffer are meant to be kooky and funny — thanks to a book on hypnotism that allows the tween to convince adults all around her to give her a lift to London, put her up in the fanciest suite in the fanciest hotel she can find, and make her a worldwide pop star. Seriously. Along the way, the obnoxious, selfish little brat unconvincingly learns that it’s wrong to trick the entire planet and that orphans gotta stick together, even if that means running away from the adoptive parents one has wished for all along. (This is the terrible lesson that Molly’s pal Rocky [Jadon Carnelly Morris] learns.) If there’s any magic here, it’s in how director Christopher N. Rowley manages to find precisely the wrong tone for every scene, and in how he was able to convince so many very good actors to go along with this abominable charade.