Don’t know about these kids, but the I had when I was little were a bit more screwed-up. It’s a guy thing.
Smart, bright, and imaginative 10-year-old Sara Crewe (Liesel Matthews) always believes in fairy-tales, even when things in her real life aren’t so bright. However, she has the support of her daddy (Liam Cunningham) to make her happy and that’s all that counts. And that’s very true, but when that said daddy of hers get shipped-off to fight in WWI, Sara is left at the same girls’ school in New York that her late mommy went to. At first, Sara seems to really like it there since her stories of wonder and the inexplicable make her something of a cult-favorite at the school; but when her daddy is allegedly “killed” in battle and all of her trust-funds are no longer valid, Sara is left somewhat of an orphan. But the mean, despicable, and downright evil Miss Minchin the Elder (Eleanor Bron) decides that she could use dear little Sara around her establishment for cooking, cleaning, and all sorts of other chores that no little 10-year-old should have to do so excruciatingly, but so be it. It’s either in there or the streets, right?!?!? Even through the thick and the thin though, Sara still finds a way to get past it all and somehow look at everything with an optimistic smile, and a brain that’s full of imaginary dreams that sometimes do come true, and sometimes don’t.
With Gravity coming out this Friday, it’s very interesting to see where Alfonso Cuarón first got his foot in the Hollywood film-making business, but also how none of that has been altered or changed over the years. For instance, all of the flowing tracking shots we have come to know and love from Cuarón’s flicks are still present here, as well as his perfect attention to detail and beauty to any setting, and it only seems to make the material better as a result. And nearly two decades later, not much has changed for this guy or his style, instead, he’s just evolved and become the beloved film maker we want to, hell, we need to see more of nowadays. Especially if he’s going to make kids movies like this.
And much like in the same vein as Hugo two years ago, this is more or less a kids film with plenty of art, plenty to look at, and even plenty enough for the adults who, if they ever get roped into seeing this so that their kids will shut up for an-hour-and-a-half, will have something to pay attention to every once and awhile. However, that’s probably asking a bit too much of the adult, since the story and screenplay itself is standard kiddie-fare, with dream-sequences, little girls being princesses, playing around, laughing, smiling, dancing, and overall, just doing what little girls do in movies like this, made for fellow little girls out there. That’s fine and all, but it does leave the parent wanting more if they aren’t the “artistic type”; then again, nothing’s wrong with that in the first place, that’s just me being a picky-bugger. That’s all it comes down to.
Anyway, as I was saying about this movie, it’s a bit more imaginative than other kiddie-movies, and it definitely features a plenty a more inspired direction that makes the movie itself feel like it was wanted to be made in the first place, and not just done so that the Hollywood company can make some sweet cash off of these little tikes and their desperately-loving parents. Cuarón gives this material all of the right amount of visual flair, splendor, and beauty that you could ask for in a movie about imaginary princesses, princes, and Creatures of the Night and really helps you pay attention. Which did mean a lot since the story itself is rather dry, if not conventional at times. That’s why it’s always worth it when you have a director that cares for the material and wants to make a good movie, even if all the other factors around him continue to battle him at wits end.
I know I sound like a cynical a-hole and all, but seriously, nothing else really seems to be saving this movie other than Cuarón’s direction. Yes, there is absolutely, positively, nothing “wrong” with this movie in terms of who should watch it and whether or not it will fully suitable for the whole family (it’s rated G, after all), it just doesn’t do the types of wonders most kids films do for all members of the family. The little girls of the fam-squad will be pleased, but as for us younger and older dudes, boredom may come very close and I feel like that’s where it hits its road-block. Just doesn’t appeal to all senses, and maybe I’m a d-bag for not being able to get past that, but so be it.
Now you all see why I’m still single. Well, that, and because I don’t pay child-support.
But the key to every kiddie-flick is whether or not the performances from the young cast work, and for the most part, it’s a very mixed-bag, as you’d expect from a movie where half of the cast were just potty-trained no less than a couple months before. Liesel Matthews does a nice job in such a young role as Sara because she has to play up the fact that she’s a young girl, who is a bit rebellious, a bit knowing of the adults, as well as her fellow girls, and seems like the type of kid who’s a bit smart for her britches, but she isn’t annoying about it. Shame that she didn’t do much after this movie, but hey, who knows if she’ll ever make that desired comeback only a handful of people have been waiting for.
Then, of course, there’s the adults that are pretty good too, even if the characters they have to work with are either thin, or totally one-dimensional. The character I’m mainly talking about is Miss Minchin the Elder, who is like a mixture between Cruella de Vil and the Bride of Frankenstein; she looks, sounds, and acts as evil as you can get with a woman of her age, and yet, she still has the power to run and facilitate a privileged girls school, that rich people continue to send their daughters to. Though Eleanor Bron does indeed try with this character, she felt too one-sided as if she couldn’t go a day without yelling at some little girl for crying when she fell down the stairs, or threatening to throw them out on the streets to rot and die if their parents don’t continue to pay their bill. In the context of a kids movie where you need a villain that’s this over-the-top, mean, and distasteful to want to see fail at the end, she works, but in terms of a story that goes deeper than just what it presents, she fails. Luckily, the rest of the movie didn’t, all thanks to Mr. Alfonso Cuarón who seems like he’s obviously onto way bigger, and way better things.
Consensus: The kids will probably love the hell out of A Little Princess if you threw it in their face for an afternoon, however, it may be a bit hard for an older-viewer to pay attention to if they sort of, kinda, maybe have to. Except, it is pretty. That much is true.
5.5 / 10 = Rental!!
Photo’s Credit to: IMDB