Molly Moon And The Incredible Book Of Hypnotism (PG)
98 minutes, Opens tomorrow, 2/5
The story: Orphan Molly Moon (Raffey Cassidy) discovers a mysterious book about hypnotism. As she experiments with her newfound powers of hypnosis, she must escape the clutches from a bank robber (Dominic Monaghan), who is set on getting the book and mastering the art of hypnotism.
Children hate being talked down to, but that is exactly how this film treats its target audience - like infants who can barely think for themselves.
Every performer over-acts here, even big names such as Monaghan of Lost (2004 to 2010) fame, who is constantly grimacing and pouting in the role of the bumbling villain. When he is not flailing waist-deep in smelly sewage, he is howling in pain from getting kicked in the shin.
Actress Lesley Manville fares even worse as the fierce orphanage headmistress, screeching and flapping about whenever she wants to get her point across, as if the poor orphans she is yelling at are deaf.
It is all very over-the-top and in-your-face, a storytelling approach that feels grossly dated, like something done by The Three Stooges.
And while the child actress at the centre of the story here - 13-year-old Cassidy (Tomorrowland, 2015) - looks doe-eyed and earnest enough, her character is not at all likeable.
I have not read the source material for this movie - the best-selling 2002 children's book series by Georgia Byng - but Molly in the film adaptation is one gigantic brat.
There is something almost malicious in the way she uses her newfound hypnosis powers to get what she wants.
On top of playing mean little tricks on the headmistress - reducing her to a state of loopiness where she treats a toy bunny as her best friend - Molly also uses hypnosis to ruin other people's careers and reputations, just because she feels like it.
She runs away to London to mend fences with her best friend Rocky, which would have been a heartwarming if standard storyline, but all of that gets sidetracked when she suddenly decides that her real goal in the big city is to become the next singing sensation. The bizarre plot twist here is only one of many random tangents that this muddled film goes off on.
If this film was trying to replicate the success of other family-friendly movies about a kid with special powers - think the charming Matilda (1996) - it is going to need plenty of hypnosis to convince the audience.
This article was first published on September 2, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.