October 9, 1995 -- ``A Little Princess,'' recently released on video, is the best family film to come out since ``The Secret Garden.'' It is not a bad film for adults, either. It is a real gem.
``A Little Princess'' is based on a book by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Her work also was the basis for the aforementioned film ``A Secret Garden.''
The first thing you notice about ``A Little Princess'' is the wonderful photography by Emmanuel Lubezki. The soft, fully saturated colors are as vibrant as in a Van Gough painting. It creates a magical effect, where anything seems possible. Equally impressive is the set design by John Dexter and the production design by Robert Welch. Also notable is the job done by art director Tom Duffield and costume designer Judianna Makovsky. This is a beautiful film full of rich detail. I would have loved to have seen it on the big screen.
O.K., so the film looks wonderful. Does it have a story? Does it ever. At the center of all this dazzling beauty is a very human tale about a little girl, Sara Crewe, played by Liesel Matthews, who goes from riches to rags, but rises above her troubles. The story is a little like Oliver Twist.
Sara's father, a single parent, must go away to war, so he places her in a lavish New York girl's school. The father, Captain Crewe, is played by Liam Cunningham. The school is run by a wicked headmistress, Miss Minchin, played by Eleanor Bron.
When Sara's family suffers a reversal of fortune, Sara is forced to be a servant at the school, along with a young black girl named Becky, played by Vanessa Lee Chester. Sara loses heart for a time, but then uses the power of her imagination to rise above her problems and to get some revenge on the evil Miss Minchin.
The message of the film is that a sense of wonder, imagination and spirit can overcome many problems. Matthews, Chester, Bron and all the other actresses in the film are very effective.
This is more than just a children's film, however. It is a family film. It's power comes from the fact that it takes the children in the film as seriously as it does the adults. It doesn't play down to the level of children. It raises them up to the level of adults. Most children's films portray children as dull and adults as idiots.
This is a magical film, directed by Alfonso Cuaron and produced by Mark Johnson (who produced the great-looking ``Avalon''). It rates an A.
Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.