Never has the value of school uniforms been better demonstrated
than in MADELINE. Dressed in bright blue jumpers, starched white
shirts with red and blue striped ties, straw hats with fire-engine red
ribbons - all set off nicely with banana-colored umbrellas, these
9-year-old girls are the pictures of innocence. It is almost
impossible to envision these sweet-looking little darlings being
involved in drugs or any of today's modern problems.
Director Daisy von Scherler Mayer, whose last movie was the
atrocious WOO, captures perfectly the wholesome Madeline series of
children's picture books by Ludwig Bemelmans. While rarely rising to
the captivating level, the movie stays firmly in the cute range.
Little of consequence happens, but the story provides some nice little
In the lead role of Madeline, cinematic newcomer Hatty Jones is
precious. With her intense dark brown eyes and her cherubic, round
face, the camera loves her. Her mildly rebellious Madeline leads the
rest of her girl's school in such escapades as forbidden raids on the
refrigerator. In one of the funniest scenes, she refuses to eat Fred,
the once-live chicken with whom she had shared a car seat earlier in
the day. She soon has almost the entire student body converted to
As the worrywart nun, Miss Clavel, FARGO's Frances McDormand seems
made for the role. Popping up in the middle of the night and other
times, she proclaims with dead-on premonition, "Something is not
right!" She quickly scurries around amongst her girls searching for
the predicament of the moment.
The plot concerns the selling of the school by its crotchety owner
Lord Covington, played by Nigel Hawthorne. The girls, who refer to him
as Lord Cuckooface, scheme to thwart the sale of the school. They
enlist the help of the devilish son of the Spanish Ambassador, Pepito
(Kristian de la Osa), who lives next door to their school in Paris. A
subplot, and probably the reason the show got a PG rather than a G
rating, concerns a kidnapping plan by Pepito's teacher. It is handled
so delicately that the picture is effectively a G nevertheless.
Filmed in dark, serious tones by Pierre Aim, best known for the
morose film HATE, the movie is set mainly to overcast Parisian skies.
Only the happy colors of the girls' clothes, designed by Michael
Clancy, keep the movie from having an inappropriately somber look.
Nothing can stop Madeline. Even the guillotine - which Pepito
claims he will use to execute a poor mouse to provide food for his
monstrous snake - doesn't faze her. Madeline's ingenuity saves the day
more than once, and actress Hatty Jones saves the movie with her
Copyright © 1998 Steve Rhodes