The Famous Five Review: A Classically Modern Adventure for the Ages

How the Series Brought Blyton's Books to Rich New Life

When I first heard that acclaimed director Nicolas Winding Refn was adapting Enid Blyton’s classic children’s series The Famous Five, I have to admit I was a little puzzled. Refn is best known for his gritty, violent films like Drive and Only God Forgives—not exactly typical fare for young viewers. How would he bring these middle-grade mysteries to the screen in a way that remains faithful to the books while also being exciting enough for today’s audiences?

As soon as the opening credits started rolling on The Curse of Kirrin Island, though, my doubts were put to rest. Sure, Refn brought his signature stylish visual flair, like moody lighting and dramatic shadows. But the story sticks closely to the spirit of discovery and problem-solving that made the books beloved for generations. George, Julian, Dick, Anne, and Timmy find themselves exploring a mysterious island, investigating strange happenings, and facing perilous dangers alongside a sinister villain. Along the way, they demonstrate bravery, resilience, and teamwork in solving the mystery.

While the plot takes some creative liberties, the heart of what made The Famous Five great remains. This adaptation has truly captured the fun and adventure of the originals, bringing Blyton’s characters to life in a way that honors the past while feeling fresh. Fans, both new and old, are sure to find entertainment in these updated adventures of the famous five young detectives and their loyal dog Timmy.

Faithful Adventure With a Modern Twist

While The Curse of Kirrin Island takes creative liberties compared to Enid Blyton’s original books, it truly captures the spirit of adventure that made The Famous Five so beloved. The core relationships and dynamics between the characters stay true to the source material. George is as spirited and independent as ever, butting heads with her overly cautious cousin Julian as they work to solve the mystery. Anne can still be a bit whiny at times. Even Timmy remains by their side, fiercely loyal.

Of course, some updates have been made. The plotline of a mysterious treasure and ancient ruins gave writer Matthew Read a chance to craft an entirely new storyline. Yet it maintains that same sense of fun and danger the books provide as the five explore the island and grapple with a dastardly villain. Read also modernized George somewhat, keeping her a tomboy but giving the character even more sass and bravery.

While set in the 1940s, the period details feel authentic thanks to beautiful location filming that transports viewers straight to that era. From the children’s clothing to the rural English village settings, it retains the cozy nostalgia of Blyton’s books. Even with some darker moments late in the film, the overall tone stays true to the lighthearted adventures that entertained generations.

Overall, this adaptation succeeded in capturing what made the books classic while feeling fresh for today. The heart of the characters and their bond remains, but with enough newness to still thrill both dedicated fans and newcomers. It’s a testament to the power of a well-loved story that new iterations can be so faithful yet innovative all at once. Fans of the books are sure to appreciate this modern movie bringing the books’ old-fashioned fun into the present.

Director Brings Experience Without Sacrificing Spirit

With a filmography including gritty titles like Drive and Only God Forgives, many likely expected Nicolas Winding Refn’s take on The Famous Five to bring more edge. However, Refn showed he could reign in his style when the material called for it. Rather than impose dark thrills, he instead used his skills to heighten the adventure.

The Famous Five Review

Locations like the ruins on Kirrin Island feel plucked straight from an action blockbuster. Refn’s eye for composition makes even standard shots of the kids running through meadows feel cinematic. It’s clear that significant production values went into transporting viewers to 1940s England. You can sense Refn’s background in tense dramas in the sound design too.

The synth-heavy score provides just the right amount of suspense without ever getting too intense for its young audience. It creatively builds atmosphere without relying on jump scares or graphic imagery. Like the visuals, the music sweeps viewers up in the mystery without straying from the story’s underlying fun spirit.

For those familiar with Refn’s filmography, his touch here may come across as surprisingly restrained. But that approach allows the heart of Blyton’s creation to shine through. Refn uses his experience to escalate the adventure and heighten stakes and scares, just shy of going too far. In doing so, he proved he has range beyond his edgier works. Overall, Refn’s influence is felt not through darker tones but in raising production values to give this classic a fresh life on screen.

The Children of Kirrin Island

George Kirrin has always stood out among the Famous Five. Where some saw a young girl, she saw only herself. On the shores of Kirrin Island, she embraces her independence from societal rules. George lives as freely as she chooses, unconcerned with those who question her trousers or short hair. Though surrounded by family, it is in leadership that she finds belonging.

This update illustrates how George inspires more than just her cousins. Diaana Babnicova plays her with a fiery spirit that feels genuinely ahead of its time. George proves herself capable yet complicated—a role model for any child unsure of their own path. Her ambition acts as the heart driving each adventure. Without George, there would be no Famous Five.

Joining her are Julian, Dick, and Anne Barnard. As George’s city cousins, they add youthful energy to her lone crusades. Kit Rakusen is endearingly clever as Dick, while Flora Jakoby Richardson shines as the ever-inquisitive Anne. Both find ways to contribute beyond assumptions about their gender. Meanwhile, Callum Woodhouse grounds proceedings as Julian, the reliable big brother figure keeping the group together.

Among humans and canines alike, Timmy remains an indisputable star. Kip the dog melts hearts with soulful eyes and unquestioning loyalty. Timmy’s role elevates the story from a human perspective; we see ourselves in his unconditional love for the children. Some may view him as a mere canine companion, but to the Five, Timmy represents the purest form of friendship. His presence underscores their adventures as joyous escapades, not perilous trials.

Together, the characters create an ensemble defying restrictive labels. Their mysteries can be enjoyed by all, with parallels that are both modern and timeless. While mystery abounds on the shores of Kirrin Island, the greatest revelations lie within each member of The Famous Five and their celebration of youthful bravery in a world still finding its way.

Taking Back What’s Theirs

This new Famous Five adaptation addresses timely themes that kids and parents can learn from. At its heart, the story shows children using bravery and teamwork to face dangers together. George, Julian, Anne, Dick, and Timmy work through any troubles by staying true to their caring friendship.

Director Nicolas Winding Refn brings a modern perspective, reflecting the diversity of today’s world. George’s being mixed-race promotes a message of inclusion. The children accept each other for who they are, not what they look like. Their island adventure becomes one of acceptance over prejudice.

Yet Refn also weaves in deeper lessons around colonial attitudes. The villain seeks an artifact stolen long ago from another culture. The film suggests that taking without permission can disturb ancient magic, with unintended consequences. While meant as entertainment, kids may glimpse how respecting other heritages leads to better outcomes than plundering the past.

Most importantly, kids see empowerment when the Famous Five rely on their own skills and don’t dismiss each other due to age or gender. By standing as equals and using teamwork, they solve the mystery and save the day. The values of cooperation, critical thinking, and doing what’s right carry forward Blyton’s vision for a new generation.

On-Screen Adventure

This new take on The Famous Five brings its story charmingly to life. Young Diaana Babnicova shines as the feisty George Kirrin. She gives the character an energetic spirit, standing up for herself while staying true to the books. George remains a fantastic role model, getting things done without needing special treatment as a girl.

The locales and costumes place viewers right into 1940s England. Authentic details make the settings feel real without hampering the adventure. Scenes switch smoothly between an island cottage and underground ruins. Each new area pops off the screen, drawing you deeper into the mystery. Action flows at a pace that excites without scaring the littlest viewers. Threats feel real, though violence stays discreet.

Kit Rakusen is a joy as curious Cousin Dick, and Flora Richardson is a fine Anne—worried but willing to help. James Lance brings steady support as Uncle Quentin. Their bonds of family and friendship feel genuine. Young actors can sometimes overact, but this group plays so naturally that you forget the cameras. Their smiles are truly infectious.

A special shout-out too for Kip the dog. Without words, he expresses more character than some humans! Young fans will adore seeing a pet steal scenes without trying. As with any good movie dog, Kip uplifts every moment he’s in. No doubt, children will beg parents for their own canine, Timmy, after this show!

Credit is due to directors like Bill Eagles for capturing adventures that are effortlessly exciting yet reassuring for kids. Families feel assured that their little ones can get wrapped up in mystery without fear. Production kept Enid Blyton’s wholesome spirit while updating for today. Both children and parents will find much to cherish in this bright new chapter for The Famous Five.

Striking a Fine Balance

This new take on The Famous Five had to walk a tricky line—honoring the vintage stories while appealing to contemporary crowds. Did it pull this off, resulting in quality family viewing? I’d say the adaptation truly delivers as promised.

It maintained the essence of Blyton’s adventures through a 1940s setting and faithful characters. Yet writers added layers respecting today’s values too. Representation felt natural at the time, not forced. Best of all, the mystery gripped me throughout—suspenseful yet not too scary for kids.

Twists kept families fully immersed in Kirrin Island’s mystery. Intricate plots blended history and fantasy in an exciting package. Even deductions that seemed farfetched to adolescents felt logical in the Five’s world. Most of all, fun prevailed over frightening the little ones.

At the same time, adults understood deeper themes around colonialism. Darker aspects added meaning without losing the heart of Blyton’s vision. Moral lessons felt present without preaching.

Ultimately, The Famous Five succeeded as premium entertainment that the whole family bonded over. Its balance lets parents feel secure that kids are watching independently too. Future generations can now discover these classic characters in a form honoring the past but built for the present.

By honoring its rich source material and upholding lighthearted adventure, this adaptation has struck gold. It has given the Famous Five new life, welcoming all to share in its magic. Most importantly, it delivered the rare programming of bringing families together with smiles.

The Review

The Famous Five

8 Score

Through vibrant characters, thrilling plots, and balanced modernization, The Famous Five TV series has reinvented these beloved characters for a new generation. Maintaining the spirit of adventure and fun that made the books timeless classics, this reboot brings Blyton's stories to life in a way the whole family can enjoy.


  • Authentic settings and costumes that immerse viewers
  • Faithful yet fresh adaptations of beloved book plots
  • Strong central performance by Diaana Babnicova as George
  • Exciting mystery and intrigue that engages both kids and parents
  • Balanced modern sensibilities without sacrificing original spirit


  • Supporting characters could have more depth and development.
  • The plot sometimes strains believability for the characters' ages.
  • George's defiance occasionally borders on unlikability.
  • Potential for future films or episodes to overcomplicate mythology

Review Breakdown

  • Overall 8
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