This new version of Frances Hodgson Burnett's children's classic boasts first-rate production values and a political sensitivity befitting the '90s, but it doesn't quite capture the magic of the 1939 Shirley Temple vehicle.
1914, Simla, India: Imaginative 10-year-old Sara Crewe (Liesel Matthews) lives with her wealthy, widowed father (Liam Cunningham), a British Army captain. Sara enjoys her life in exotic India, but the coming of the Great War destroys the tranquillity of Sara's life. Her father must rejoin his
regiment, and places Sara in Miss Minchin's School for Girls in New York City. Stern headmistress Miss Minchin (Eleanor Bron) hates the girl, and when Sara's father is reported killed in battle, she launches a campaign to crush the Sara's resilient spirit.
A LITTLE PRINCESS is adapted respectably by screenwriters Richard LaGravenese and Elizabeth Chandler, meticulously produced, opulently designed--particularly in the colorful fantasy sequences--elegantly photographed by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and adequately (in the case of Eleanor Bron,
more than adequately) acted. While Shirley Temple is a more appealing youngster than newcomer Liesel Matthews, Matthews is both sassy and unabashedly emotional. And though the new LITTLE PRINCESS is a far darker affair than the 1939 version, Mexican-born director Alfonso Cuaron doesn't make it
anywhere near as drab and moody as Agnieszka Holland's more artistically and commercially successful THE SECRET GARDEN.
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