"Kids outsmarting adults because they have a more simplistic view of the world is a fine plot device"

Based on the bestselling book by Arthur Ransome Swallows and Amazons tells the tale of the children of the Walker Family as they escape the city for a holiday in the country, sadly without their father as he was unable to get away from some unspecified naval job in the south China sea that feels like it’s going to be of some significance later but never is. They retreat to a familiar location, a picturesque country farm overlooking a lake that contains what they refer to as the “undiscovered island”.

After some sweet talking they convince their mother to let them go camp out on said island by themselves, four siblings whose ages seem to range somewhere between 9 and 16, and they set out aboard the farmers boat “Swallow” to discover the island and have jolly japes and teas and crumpets and an all round Famous Five approved period English adventure. Arriving at the island they find there are rivals for control of the land in a pair of local sisters who have claimed it for their own and pirate the lake on their boat the “Amazon”.

The kids enter a battle of cunning for ownership of the island, however, also staying on the lake in his houseboat is a mysterious man the children dub Captain Flint, who is being pursued by an even more mysterious man with some connection to Russia and the children quickly become embroiled in a web of spies and espionage.

I’d end that sentence with “and only they can save the day” but that simply isn’t true, if anything they make things worse by not reporting what they’ve seen to a grown up who might actually be able to do something useful. I grew up on adventure stories such as the Famous Five (who are now perhaps better remembered with the words Comic Strip Presents in front of them) and whilst this is definitely in that vein, I’m not familiar with this book and I didn’t find myself rooting for these kids at all. Maybe I’m officially old but all I could think to myself was “For God’s sake go find an adult!” as they stumble from one near death experience to the next, and that’s before the gun toting Russians show up. The finale is a particularly ridiculous moment where I think the kids deliberately chose the least useful course of action.

In the end their mother apologises for not trusting them more but I honestly don’t know why; there was no cliché moment where they went for help and nobody believed them because they’re just kids, and they only really effect the spy story by being slightly in the way. Considering how many time they nearly died she should probably be really angry with them. Anyway, that’s plot hole issues, how is it as a movie?

Fairly unimpressive as it happens. The whole movie feels a kind of cheap that would have made for an okay TV special but stands out a little in a cinema setting. The kids have their own adventure on the island with the spy story happening very much in the background but that story is so far in the background it ends up having no real depth beyond “aren’t the Russians evil probably”.

The kids antics aren’t quite cute enough to endear us to them and as characters they’re pretty flat largely because the clunky script doesn’t give them anything believable to do. There’s a gentle “kids should get out more” message that doesn’t hold up considering these kids can barely go ten minutes without nearly getting killed in some irresponsible way. Kids outsmarting adults because they have a more simplistic view of the world is a fine plot device but this film fails to pull it off, these kids are just reckless and kind of stupid.