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4 Film Favorites: Children's Fantasy (The Secret Garden / 5 Children & It / The Witches / The Neverending Story)

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4 Film Favorites: Children's Fantasy (The Secret Garden / 5 Children & It / The Witches / The Neverending Story) + A Little Princess (Widescreen/Full Screen)
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4 Film Favorites: Children's Fantasy (Dbl DVD)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 67 reviews
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Very clean and entertaining, even if not true to the novel Jan. 12 2006
By M. Sellers - Published on
Format: DVD
I recommend this clean movie which kept us all entertained--ages 6 to 14 and Mom as well. We were so engrossed that we forgot to make popcorn!

First, a caveat: if you recently saw Narnia, you might think the movie is "copying"--two boys and two girls (and their toddler brother) are sent to an uncle's house in the country as their mother is a WW 1 nurse and their dad is a fighter pilot. There are similar issues (the older brother "in charge" and the younger brother not happy about it), but the stories aren't copies of one another and didn't intend to be! They are both just movies of really good children's books.

We are big fans of E. Nesbitt, and were a bit dubious about seeing this movie. As to staying true to the original novel, there are liberalities. However, there are a number of scenes which are similar and some which are just for the movie. The wise-cracking psammead (sand fairy) makes some amusing comments, but thankfully, none of his jokes (or anyone else's) descend into that crude humor which is so prevalent in children's movies today.

Yes, the acting is a bit weak; the kids seem to always have smiles on their faces for some reason. And the girls aren't developed very well as characters. And I never really enjoy talking puppets in my movies. But, with all that said, we still enjoyed the movie quite a bit!
38 of 45 people found the following review helpful
Fans of the book, stay away! Aug. 23 2005
By Jaina Solo - Published on
Format: DVD
What a disappointment! This dreadful little movie has practically nothing in common with the classic book of the same title by E. Nesbit. If you're a fan of children's literature and enjoy the wonderful tone and content of Five Children and It (the book) then find the other movie version of it, titled "The Sand Fairy." I believe it was done by the BBC. There is also a second, called "Return of the Sand Fairy."

Like everyone else, I loved Freddie Highmore in Finding Neverland (and as Charlie) and he's just as charming here, as Robert, the second oldest boy and the starring role in this version (Freddie gets top billing and Robert's part is much more central than in the book). It's not Freddie's fault that this script is a bad jumble of kid-movie cliches brought together by someone who obviously never read E. Nesbit's classic, or if they did, cared nothing for it. Nesbit is a wonderful children's writer, full of wit and magic. C.S. Lewis himself said he was inspired by Nesbit's work when he created his Narnia books. However, in this production, it's Lewis' classics that seem to lend most of the plot. The kids here are evacuated during the war (WWI in this case) and live with a "mad uncle" and his very odd son in a castle by the sea. It's as if they took several Lewis books, tried to add a Harry Potter feel, and then CGI'd a character (the sand fairy) for that modern flashiness. A few of the wishes from the actual story occur (wings, spending money) but the entire tone is one of "wacky adventure" as the kids run rampant and the sand fairy cracks jokes. Freddie has his touching moments, missing their father, which is supposed to lend a depth that this movie could never quite hold.

I have a high tolerance for children's entertainment, happily watching many a kiddy film, however I was bored from the first fifteen minutes. I did watch to the end, bound and determined to get it over with. As I did, I wondered what sort of person might be entertained by all this. My guess: one who has not been previously exposed to any of the great works that were badly ripped off here. One who is easily amused and has no need for consistency of tone or quality of script. One who has never heard of the E. Nesbit book and never intends to read it. If that's you or your kids, enjoy.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Three of the four films are very worthwhile Sept. 3 2007
By calvinnme - Published on
Format: DVD
The four films in this 2-disc collection are:
1. The Neverending Story (1984) - A rather uneven childrens' movie. Parts of it are quite dark, and parts of it seem to be aiming to be a Muppet movie. The special effects were good for its time, but for some reason it has a very 80's feel to it although it is a fantasy film.
2. The Witches (1990) - I believe that this was Jim Henson's last film before his untimely death. A boy overhears a group of witches scheming, and when he is discovered they turn him into a mouse. He then has to save the day while still in the form of a mouse.
3. The Secret Garden (1993) - A young girl's parents are killed in an earthquake and she is sent to live with her uncle who is still mourning the death of his wife after ten years. There she finds an overrun garden that was her aunt's, a sickly cousin that has been told to stay indoors at all times, and a servant boy who becomes her close friend. She and her new friend work to unravel a mystery about her uncle's estate and her new home.
4. Five Children & It (2004) - The newest film in the bunch is probably the weakest. It's not terrible, it's just not very interesting.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Great Movie Aug. 14 2005
By S. Cooke - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Finally, a movie about goodnes, loyalty, faith, hope, and love. And one in which the parents aren't made out to be bufoons...especially the dad. And the mom/wife loves and respects the dad, and this is reflected in their children's relationship with their father. All thumbs up!
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Read the Book Once a Year, watch the movie and enjoy both June 5 2008
By Lucy - Published on
Format: DVD
I bought this book for my children in the 1980s as they became old enough to read. I read it back then and found it pleasant. In April/May 2008 I re-read it after noticing E. Nesbit was honored in the pages of one of my favorite books, Half Magic. My youngest daughter, as an 8 year old, read Five Children and It and told me she pretty much loved it until she saw this movie a year later, May 2008. Then she said she loved the movie more. Good for her. She isn't wrapped up in "rules" as I am.

The movie was shockingly different from the book, and I found myself endlessly comparing it to the book and being frustrated. I could've enjoyed the movie a lot if I had relaxed.

Did the movie include as much as 2 percent from E. Nesbit's book? Does anyone know? There was nothing about a war in the book. There was no train, tramp with suitcases, mansion, relatives, forbidden room, beach, and no enormous shell containing the sand fairy who tried running away.

The sand fairy's appearance, character and words were all dramatically different. He was endearing in the book. I missed his wisdom and vulnerability. You know how important it was that Gollum in Tolkien's books be done well for the movies? I feel like that about E. Nesbit's sand fairy. The movie sand fairy was lively and sarcastic and funny but he wasn't the book sand fairy.

The book had no crazy chore list, no clones, no broken vase, no testdrive of a car, no Germans, no ice cream man.

Everything having to do with wings in the movie differed from the book. In the book, the children agreed on wings and thoroughly enjoyed every minute. It was supremely glorious day. No problems until they got hungry and fell asleep. The book had charming realistic, practical dilemnas for their wings adventure. I loved that part of E. Nesbit's story. Sigh. The movie invented some conflict and drama and danger with their flight, but I much preferred the book's simple realism and good heart during that day's wish.

Everything to do with the children's father and his compass, birthday picnic, the near dissection, and the dinosaur didn't exist in the book.

I was especially bothered by the movie character played by Freddie. The movie character was rebellious, angry, passionate, and clearly the lead character. Not so in the book. I don't blame Freddie. As Jessica Rabbit would say, "I'm not bad, I'm just drawn that way." I don't see why the story wasn't "modernized" to win a new generation, retaining the best the book had to offer. Who made the decision to change 98%?

E. Nesbit deserves to have her books made into first class movies. This can be done without having her plot and characters butchered/annihilated. How far can movie makers go with their "adaptations" and still credit a source? What a dilemna. She deserves the recognition.

I recommend you enjoy the book and enjoy the movie. They both are worth owning and worth re-reading/watching over and over. Just let go of thinking the movie will do justice to the book.