The adventures of a young girl lat school in '50s Paris.
Fargo Oscar winner Frances McDormand swaps the craziness of the Coen brothers for a role as a spunky nun in this cute kids' romp, based on the adventures of children's character Madeline. If the name doesn't ring any bells, the artwork behind the before-title-credits taken from the cartoon spin-off, might.
Madeline's adventures were first penned by Ludwig Bemelman in 1939 and the movie places the action firmly in Paris in the 50s. But thanks mainly to its enchanting child star Jones and to the high quality of the writing, Madeline could be set in any city in any era and it would still work.
The action centres on a cosy old house in Paris, home to 12 little girls learning to be ladies. Lovingly looked after by Miss Clavel (McDormand), they live an idyllic existence interrupted only by the odd jolly jape from rebel red-head Madeline (Jones). When the girls get new neighbours in the shape of the Spanish Ambassador, his wife and scooter boy Pepito (Kristian De La Osa) the girls go all giggly. But not Madeline. She's not impressed with his handsome face or fancy clothes and the pair begin a battle of wills. The adventure really revs up when the girls' recently bereaved landlord Lord Covington (Hawthorne), shows up threatening to sell the school.
Replete with motorbike chases, explosions and some obligatory idiotic criminals, this beautifully shot film is effortlessly entertaining. Jones and the rest of the young cast turn in some assured acting and McDormand and Hawthorne complete the almost perfect picture.
Sweet but not sickly, its only faults could be its predictability and the sorry fact that kids who've grown up on a diet of slapstick and special effects might leave theatres unsatisfied.