Saturday, February 21, 2009


CHICK FLICK GROWING UP TIP: In the bleakest of times, in the coldest of days, in the darkest of hours, always trust your inner monkey.


A trust baby lead, a blue goof not named after a New York City borough, a mystical Haji-Deux-Ex-Machina, poor blacky in the attic, pretend muffins, chubby love, a Disney villain in training, monkey hats, and Y Tu Dead Mama Tambien.

More details here.


India, 1914. Little Sarah (Liesel Matthews) lives with her British officer-cracker factory baron-father Capt. Crewe (Liam Cunningham). Despite the recent death of her mother, she enjoys a bucolic childhood with her little Indian friends climbing gigantic heads and telling sweeping, romantic, and fantastic tales about a princess and her Smurf-ish prince. When Dad is called off to war, Sarah gets shipped to her mother’s old boarding school in New York, headed by cruel bitch Miss Minchin (Eleanor Bron), your typically evil gothic sexless matron. Not only is Sarah expected to adhere to the school’s strict etiquette and oppressive rules, she’ll also be taught to become a lady and leave behind childish things like dolls and fairy tales. Strong-willed Sarah almost immediately rebels, questioning the rigid regulations, the harsh treatment of servant girl Becky (Vanessa Lee Chester), and the lack of imagination all around. Most of the girls take an instant shine to Sarah and her fascinating storytelling, especially her claim that all girls, no matter what age or race, are princesses. Minchin puts up with her behavior only because Daddy has laid out the big bucks for Sarah to be well cared for, but when news arrives that Dad’s bit the big one against the Krauts, she puts cutey-pie Sarah in the attic with Becky and a mop. Minchin takes her revenge on Sarah and leaves her nothing but scraps to eat and rags to wear. Becky and Sarah’s bond strengthens as Sarah continues telling her story despite the daily humiliation wreaked up on her by Minchin and the girls who didn’t like her. However, Sarah’s heartbreak begins to wear her down, and she enters a dark world without hope as she misses her father and sees no point to using her imagination any longer. But an Indian mystic named Ram Dass (Errol Sitahal) and his monkey move in next door and his wisdom restores Sarah’s faith in magic. Minchin tightens her control on Sarah, but one day, a mysterious stranger appears who possesses the power to liberate Sarah from her tyrannical captivity and away from the mushroom-fueled grip of King Koopa. If he finds the right castle, that is.


Alfonso Cuaron is surely the finest director who ever helmed a Harry Potter flick as his popular and well-reviewed Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is certainly the best of the Potter movies. And his proving ground in handling kid actors and fantasy material was this adaption of A Little Princess, based on the children's classic by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The worlds of both films eerily mirror themselves in various ways including a gifted outsider struggles to find her/himself in an oppressive atmosphere, must deal with the loss of parents, and must contend an evil figure who holds a pivotal secret to his/her past. Oh, and Harry Potter squirts tears like a little girl now and then. Cuaron, known for the saucy Y Tu Mama Tambien and the emotional and politically-charged science-fiction film Children of Men, shows a talent for directing children’s films with gorgeous set design, imaginative storytelling, and beautiful cinematography. The adult actors all turn in fine performances, especially Bron as the coldhearted Minchin. The supporting cast, much like in the Potter movies, provide the chuckles when needed but aren’t very interesting when you take in the bigger picture. Although most of the children’s performances fall a little flat, the simple story doesn’t do much to help elevate the actors to great heights. Don’t get me wrong - it’s a good story, but sometimes a little too familiar at times. Matthews is a great-looking kid, but her character isn’t given a whole lot of depth. She’s a little girl who is very well educated, very intelligent, and very imaginative, but the fact that her emotional state is fragile, given the fact that she’s had a relatively easy ride on cracker money, isn’t explored at any length. Nevertheless, A Little Princess is an unassuming and often entertaining fantasy film that is recommended to chick Moms everywhere to watch with their little chick princesses.

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