The kids aren't alright in The Thief Lord, a tedious escapist fantasy that plays like Oliver Twist in Venice. Based on the children's novel by Cornelia Funke, Richard Claus' tale of runaway ragamuffins in the land of the Cornetto adds some Peter Pan, Harry Potter and the Famous Five to the mix in its attempts to entertain a juvenile audience. Alas, that media-savvy demographic is more likely to be patronised than capitivated by this dated, moralistic fable.
Having saved his younger brother Bo (Jasper Harris) from the clutches of their evil aunt and uncle, Prosper (Aaron Johnson) whisks them both off to Venice, their late mother's favourite city. Homeless, penniless and alarmingly clueless, it seems only a matter of time before they are found by private eye Victor (Jim Carter) - until they fall in with a gang of orphan thieves led by the charismatic Scipio (Rollo Weeks).
"WHAT REALLY RANKLES IS THE SCRIPT"
The self-styled 'Thief Lord' is not the teenage Zorro he appears, however, but the unhappy son of a rich businessman (Richard Bathurst) who hates the very sight of him. And, frankly, so will you. His whining nobody-understands-me act palls as quickly as the overly elaborate Da Vinci Code-style plot which has the fresh-faced leads tracking down the missing pieces of a magical, time-reversing carousel for Alexei Sayle's Faginesque fence.
What really rankles, though, is the script: Claus and co-writer Daniel Musgrave give their underage actors enough crudely obnoxious dialogue ("Spit it out, fat-face!", "You lying piece of crap!") to make Ron Weasley blush.