A Little Princess 

I'm not sure whether this sensitive adaptation of a novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett (author of The Secret Garden) is quite the miracle that some of my colleagues have been claiming it to be, but there's no question that this exceptional and affecting children's movie from Warners easily blows current Disney productions out of the water and is enjoyable for grown-ups as well. Set during World War I, it follows the adventures of an imaginative and resourceful little girl (Liesel Matthews) raised in India and then deposited by her father (Liam Cunningham) at an exclusive New York boarding school, where she soon becomes the victim of a very mean headmistress (Eleanor Bron). Directed by Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron in his American debut and scripted by Richard LaGravenese (The Fisher King) and Amy Ephron, the film ingeniously uses studio resources to create an entrancing world both in New York and in the heroine's fantasies about India. The virtues on display are very much those of the heroine: generosity, imagination, charm, and the capacity to keep audiences mesmerized with a good story. Webster Place, Evanston, McClurg Court.

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