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A Little Princess Movie Review

sara temple chester cuaron

The Little Princess is the most frequently televised of all the Shirley Temple vehicles made by 20th Century Fox between 1934 and 1940, and with good reason. Someone forgot to renew the film's 1939 copyright and it lapsed into the public domain in 1967. It is among the best of Temple's childhood movies with a strong storyline, great supporting cast, and the obligatory dream sequence which ensured that the Ideal Toy Corporation would market yet another Shirley doll in lavish princess costume. But the one element of the picture that strayed from Francis Hodgson Burnett's 1888 novel Sara Crewe was an unrealistic insistence that Sara's search for her father, reported dead in action, be given a fairy tale ending. The 1995 version of A Little Princess retains the fairy tale ending with a slightly more plausible twist. Even those who are sated by the Temple version will be pleasantly surprised by director Alfonso Cuaron's update. The setting has been transferred to America and the period moved up a bit in time to the First World War. Liesel Matthews, the new Sara, neither sings nor dances, but she does tell magical stories about India (beautifully interpreted by Cuaron). Eleanor Bron, also seen in 1994's Black Beauty, adopts an American accent to play mean schoolmistress Miss Amelia Minchin, although the script here suggests a reason for her relentless nastiness. Adorable Vanessa Lee Chester plays Sara's friend Becky this time (Chester would play Harriet the Spy's best friend the following year) and all the other kids are well cast and appealingly believable. Sara's sunny personality and some colorful sight gags take the edge off grim plot turns. All in all, A Little Princess still has something to say to the kids who were born over a century after its creation. And think about this, parents: no singing, no dancing, and no Queen Victoria!

1995 (G) 97m/C Liesl Matthews, Eleanor Bron, Liam Cunningham, Rusty Schwimmer, Arthur Malet, Vanessa Lee Chester, Errol Sitahal, Heather DeLoach, Taylor Fry; D: Alfonso Cuaron; W: Richard LaGravenese, Elizabeth Chandler; C: Emmanuel Lubezki; M: Patrick Doyle. Nominations: Academy Awards ‘95: Best Art Direction/Set Decoration, Best Cinematography. VHS, LV, Closed Caption, DVD

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