Our rating: 5 out of 5
reviewed by Rissi C.
Every girl everywhere is a Princess
When Captain Crewe (Liam Cunningham) decides to join the British army, he sends his beloved young daughter Sara (Liesel Matthews), to the academy her mother went to, Miss Minchin's School for girls in New York. Miss Minchin (Eleanor Bron), a cold-hearted, lonely woman, and Miss Amelia Minchin (Rusty Schwimmer), a warm-hearted lady, are the headmistresses. Heartbroken to be separated from her father Sara promises to write to him every day.
Soon Sara gets settled into her new surroundings, and takes under her wing Lottie (Kelsey Mulroodney), a child who has recently lost her mother, and Emengarde (Heather DeLoach), whose father is disappointed in her attempts to learn, and whom all the snotty girls all pick on. With Sara's vivid imagination, she tells the most wonderful stories and soon becomes a favorite among her classmates. Miss Minchin has been instructed to spare no cost with Sara, so she throws her a very expensive birthday party. When Captain Crewe's solicitor arrives on the same day to talk to Miss Minchin, little does Sara know that her beloved father has been killed in action. With Sara left penniless, Miss Minchin decides to keep her on as a servant. After her world is turned upside down, Sara tries to adjust to her new life. She's not allowed to talk or socialize with any of the students.
She makes friends with the other servant girl, Becky (Vanessa Lee Chester), who lives up in the attic with her. Becky remains her faithful friend through all her hardships. With her father gone, Sara loses her passion for storytelling and her imagination, until some of her true friends help her get it back. The result is a beautiful story that will live on in your heart long after you have seen it. There are a few scary images in this film. Sara's stories are very imaginative and depicted as she imagines them; in one, there is a creepy, supernatural ten-headed dragon. A brief scene shows Captain Crewe walking through a tunnel filled with lots of wounded and dead bodies, but there is nothing graphic. Sara puts a curse on one of the snotty girls at school, making her believe that her hair is going to fall out.
I loved the casting in this film. Eleanor Bron was marvelous as the cold-hearted headmistress. She looked and acted the part magnificently. Liam Cunningham was also wonderful as Captain Crewe, but I think the best and most surprising performance came from Liesel Matthews, she was simply amazing. I had never seen her in anything else, but I want to tell you she is the best Sara Crewe I have seen. Lottie was a very good little actress as well, and very cute. Most of us have read the book of the same title, seen a movie version or just heard the story of Sarah, but I have never seen a more stunning production of A Little Princess. The Shirley Temple version is a much lighter and happier version for children, but this one is much more enjoyable for older viewers. It's darker and there are several scenes that make you want to cry, but they do throw in some fun things to incite laughter, and I really liked that.
The music is stunningly beautiful, and makes me want the soundtrack. As someone who hasn't read the book by Frances Hodgson Burnett, I cant say which version is the most faithful, but this one is the most memorable. One of my favorite scenes is of Sara twirling in the snow; you are never sure if she's dreaming or its really happening but the look of joy on her face is wonderful to see. One word to describe this film for me is enchanting. It enchanted me from beginning to end and I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did. Its a beautiful story that I am going to watch over and over again.