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With: Liesel Matthews, Eleanor Bron, Liam Cunningham, Rusty Schwimmer, Arthur Malet, Vanessa Lee Chester, Errol Sitahal, Heather DeLoach, Taylor Fry, Darcie Bradford, Rachael Bella, Alexandra Rea-Baum, Camilla Belle, Lauren Blumenfeld, Kelsey Mulrooney
Written by: Richard LaGravenese, Elizabeth Chandler, based on a novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Directed by: Alfonso Cuar—n
MPAA Rating: G
Running Time: 97
Date: 05/10/1995

A Little Princess (1995)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Talk About the Magic

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Based on a 1905 book by Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Little Princess really puts its young girl protagonist through the ringer, and it can be tough going, but the rewards are great. Sara Crewe (Liesel Matthews) has been raised in India, feasting on romantic fairy tales that she imagines with vivid colors.

When the first World War breaks out, her widowed father (Liam Cunningham) decides to put Sara in a boarding house in New York -- the same one her mother attended -- while he goes off to fight. At first the place is a little harsh, with the strict, nasty headmistress Miss Minchin (Eleanor Bron) embodying the stuff of children's nightmares. But when Sara's father is presumed dead, she is moved from her comfy room to a wretched space in the attic and forced to work. Fortunately, her imagination and spirit help save the day.

This was the second feature by the enormously talented Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón, after his enjoyable, sensual comedy Sólo con tu pareja. His greatest talent seems to be in his generous, emotional, sensual exploration of space and color, though his approach to A Little Princess is purely innocent, whimsical, and imaginative. (It secured a rare "G" rating.) He has said it's his personal favorite of all his films, since he enjoys watching it with his kids.

It received two Oscar nominations, for Emmanuel Lubezki's lovely cinematography and for the art direction by Bo Welch and Cheryl Carasik. The same story was adapted for a Shirley Temple movie in 1939.

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