Madeline (Hatty Jones) and her 11 friends live at a school run by Miss Clavel (Frances
McDormand) in a beautiful old house in Paris. Madeline is the smallest of the girls, but
also the most adventurous. After the death of their patron, lady Covington (Stephane
Audran), the future of the school is in jeopardy when Lord Covington (Nigel Hawthorne)
decides to sell the house. Madeline enlists the help of Pepito (Ben Daniels), the annoying
son of their next door Spanish neighbour, to help scare off potential buyers. But when
Pepito’s shifty tutor, Leopold takes him to the circus, Madeline discovers a plot to
kidnap him, and unwittingly gets involved.
"In many ways an old-fashioned film, Madeline brings the essence of Ludwig
Bemelsmans’ story book to life, with a delightful and refreshing tale, guaranteed to
enchant all ages. Madeline has not been ‘Hollywood-ised’, and retains the charm
that combines its stunning Parisian settings with a touch of innocence, without schmaltz.
Although I never discovered Madeline books as a child (I was reading about the Belgian
cartoon character, Tin Tin), the translation from paper to celluloid should satisfy the
most ardent fan, with an entertaining and involving script, engaging performances and
compelling production design. Frances McDormand is terrific as the caring sister who
senses when ‘something is not right’, with oily back-up from Nigel Hawthorne.
Nine year old London born Hatty Jones, with her cherubic features and rosebud mouth, is
appealing in the title role of Madeline; each of the 11 girls from UK, France & US
cast as Madeline’s schoolmates is delectable. One critic well versed in the book and
animated television series seemed to think that Madeline is’a girl-thing…’;
if that’s the case, it’s about time that girls were dished up something other
than Star Wars action and computer generated films. A couple of generations ago, it was
Hayley Mills playing Pollyanna, promoting positive thinking and being a do-gooder. Now,
it’s Madline. And there’s plenty for accompanying adults to enjoy – the
beautiful sights of Paris, for one, as well as Michel Legrand’s classic music plus
the genuine charm and honesty that never goes out of style."
"When producer Allyn Stewart took her grandchildren to a kids’ movie that was
so awful she wanted to walk out, she determined there and then to make a good one. An
assistant of hers suggested Madeline, and after some research, found the owners of the
rights and joined forces. Stewart’s instincts have been justified and Madeline is a
fresh and vibrant film for young girls – and even for their parents. It was not an
easy task, the script resisting an appropriate structure. In the end, the film is both
innocent but not mushy, cute but not overly so, and the production design excellent. The
young girls are the dozen best little actresses in filmdom and make a great ensemble. The
only price to pay is a mixture of accents from different versions of the English language,
with some fruity French vowels thrown in."
Andrew L. Urban
"There isn't a bubblegum pop song or a baby doll dress anywhere in Madeline, but it is definitely about 'girl power'. Although set in 1950's Paris, the film has a restrained but nonetheless sassy 'girls can do anything' attitude. This classy live action version of the popular animated TV series will have an almost irresistible appeal for children who watch the feisty youngster on the small screen. Adults pressed into service to attend a screening shouldn't be put off, though. It's a delightful story with a heart (and an unexpected message). The film looks great, moves at pace, and the cast is generally good; particularly Nigel Hawthorne and Frances McDormand in the pivotal adult roles, and the bubbly Hatty Jones as Madeline. Some of the more minor characters are rather one-dimensional - but, hey, you can't have everything. Don't just take my word for it - two experts who've seen it are my daughter Gaby and her friend Keely, both 3 years old. Gaby's take on it was: "This is just like Madeline on TV, but she's a real girl not a cartoon. I really liked the dog, Genevieve - she was really brave. Pepito was always getting into trouble. The movie was really funny. I liked Madeline a lot".
If you're a parent thinking about taking your child to see this film, be warned - they'll be talking about it for days. And you may just find yourself doing the same thing."
"A uneven effort, introducing Ludwig Bemelmans' famous heroine as an early icon of
Girl Power. The shamelessly brassy Hatty Jones is fine in the title role, but visually
there's nothing here that matches Bemelmans' stylised, playfully slapdash illustrations.
What the film has that the books don’t is a lot of nicely observed, giggly ensemble
scenes. Here the timeless glamour of well-spoken Parisian orphans is combined with a more
modern brand of girl-talk, pitched at the same pre-teenyboppers who flocked to see
Spiceworld. ‘He’s got charisma,’ breathes one of Madeline’s
older classmates, gazing out the dormitory window at local Spanish bad boy Pepito
(Kristian de la Osa is convincingly sullen). For adults, there’s Francis McDormand,
who’s witty if a bit consciously quaint: her buttoned-up jerky movements and eye
swivels are like winks to a knowing audience. In contrast, Nigel Hawthorne plays the
chilly Lord Covington with impeccable sober tact. The varying tones and conventions
sometimes clash disconcertingly – especially at the very end, when Michel
Legrand’s decorous score is suddenly replaced by ‘What A Wonderful World,’
and then by Carly Simon’s bubblegum theme song. ‘Doo-de-doo-dah... Life is cool,
life is sweet...’ So what does this have to do with a nostalgic fantasy of life in an
old, vine-covered French boarding school? Still, for the cluster of girls at the preview
screening who got up on stage and boogied their way through the closing credits, the
mixture seemed to work just fine."
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SOFCOM MOVIE TIMES
CAST: Hatty Jones, Frances McDormand, Nigel Hawthorne, Ben Daniels, Arturo Venegas,
DIRECTOR: Daisy von Scherler Mayer
PRODUCER: Saul Cooper, Pancho Kohner, Allyn Stewart
SCRIPT: Mark Levin & Jennifer Flackett (based on book by Ludwig Bemelsmans –
screen story by Malia Scotch Marmo, Mark Levin, Jennifer Flackett)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Pierre Aim
EDITOR: Jeffrey Wolf
MUSIC: Michel Legrand
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Hugo Luczyc-Wyhowski
RUNNING TIME: 89 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE DATE: December 26, 1998
By Ted Anthony
In an old house in Paris
That was covered with vines,
Lived 12 little girls
In two straight lines.
The smallest one was Madeline,
Whose movie debut proves quite fine,
A children's book she was 'til now –
Ludwig Bemelmans, take your bow.
But Hollywood made his poems real,m
and surprise! The result has great appeal.
The girls are cute and talented all -
Impossibly adult, entertainingly small.
(Though we're not sure quite how it fits
When Parisian kids talk just like Brits.)
Their patron is a teaching nun
Played by Ms Marge Gunderson
–the 'Fargo' sheriff- who does quite wll
as the tough but caring Miss Clavel
VIDEO RELEASE: November 3
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar