8 out of 10


Twelve Little Girls, All In A Line

Directed by New Yorker Daisy Von Sherler Mayer ("The Guru") and adapted for screen by "Wimbledon"'s Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett and "Hook"'s Malia Marmo, the classic children's story by Austrian born writer Ludwig Bemelmans is cute, charming and a delightful family picture.

Set in a quaint and romantic Paris, in an innocent era apparently before the second world war, where there is no politics, no strife and no depression. Filled with period vehicles, sets and costumes, Madeline (played by first time actress Hatty Jones) lives at a boarding school, owned by the wealthy Lord and Lady Covington, with 11 other little girls and her teacher, the good and kind nun Ms. Clavel (Frances McDormand). The screenplay is written for children, but will easily appeal to parents too, with strong performances by both the first time young actors and a solid supporting cast that includes Nigel Hawthorne, Ben Daniels and a lively performance by Chantal Neuwirth as the school's cook.

With comical scenes familiar to those who have read the books, such as Madeline having her appendix removed, the discovery of Genevive the labrador and Pepito, the son of the Spanish abassador and considered by the girls as charismatic "the bad hat," the writers have also included new plot twists to appeal to a film audience, without losing the light and often tongue-in-check humour of the original stories. Originally inspired by his own daughter Barbara and his mother's experiences in boarding school as a child in Austria, the director and crew have stuck to his well loved formula, shooting the picture in simple primary colours, with interesting camera angles, bright costumes, exaggerated expressions and beautiful shots of Paris is like a storybook come to life.

Although doing not as well at the box office as it should have, making only $30 million in the US, the story with it's strong positive messages and a touching and believable heroine does capture the fun of being a child while still having enough substance and flare for a sophisticated audience.

Not a Bad Hat

Film Critic: Jennifer M Lillies