Madeline - * * *


This adaptation of Ludwig Bemelmans’ classic children’s book, Madeline, is mostly faithful to the original. Unfortunately, the alterations are the film’s weakest link.

Hatty Jones stars as the title character, an orphaned girl adopted by the church, and attending a girl’s school in Paris. The headmistress is the kindly Miss Clavel (Frances McDormand), who has a sixth sense when something isn’t quite right.

And something often isn’t right, whether the independent-minded Madeline is getting into some sort of trouble, or the school’s chief benefactor (Stephanie Audran) is on her deathbed and her cruel husband, Lord Covington (Nigel Hawthorne) plots to sell the house.

At times, the film threatens to devolve into Home Alonesque nonsense. But, luckily, the film stays above that level and comes up with more creative ways to solve its dilemmas.

Nearly all the familiar scenes from the book are stuffed in the movie at one point or another. For only being 90 minutes long, the filmmakers did a good job of putting everything in, without the end result feeling overstuffed.

Performances throughout are pleasant, but no one really stands out from the work. Hatty Jones is neither annoying nor endearing in the title role.

Those expecting a thrill ride of a movie are apt to be disappointed by this comparatavely bland film. Still, Madeline offers a nice alternative to the standard summer fare.

Fans of the book will be adequately pleased by this interpretation. However, besides being a nice movie, the film has little to offer those toward the book series.

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