Drawing from a series of books by Asterix creator Rene Goscinny first published around 50 years ago, this is a timeless, charming and funny depiction of childhood. It has the zest, innocence and humour of Anthony Buckeridge's 'Jennings' and Richmal Crompton's 'William' books. In all of these we have a child's eye view of the world, with a gang of friends, and a range of adult characters variously helpful, benign, bemused and irate.
In all of these school and family life and the times of friendship and exploration in-between are the pivots on which the adventures turn. Here, Nicholas becomes convinced, through a series of misunderstandings that he will soon have a brother, and his parents will abandon him in the woods to make room for the new arrival. He and his friends devise a plan to ensure Nicholas survives. Meanwhile, Nicholas's parents strive to entertain Dad's boss with the hope of securing a promotion.
It all comes together in a series of comic set pieces, arriving at a very sweet and warming conclusion. Watch out for the nod to Goscinny's Asterix heritage as the boys make a version of Asterix's strength potion.
This is never cloying or sentimental. It is very funny, affecting and inventive, and it took me back to those serial comic misadventures of the child's world I used to love with the Jennings and William books. The film looks gorgeous, the cast play it straight from the heart, and there are no knowing winks to the 'adult' audience that Hollywood children's films love so much these days. It is fantastic family entertainment. Look out for it.