Thursday 14 July 2011

The Movie Was Better: A Little Princess

The 1995 version of A Little Princess was one of my favourite movies growing up, and I'm happy to say it's stood the test of time and is still lovely to watch now. I got an instant hit of nostalgia as soon as the opening chords of the theme played, and was drawn once again into Sara's story. Yep, I actually liked Sara in the movie (unlike in the book) - she's got a bit of spunk to her in this incarnation, and benefits from the removal of the endless praise she receives in the book.

One of my favourite parts of the movie is the score - I haven't heard it in so long but, as I already mentioned, it's instantly recognisable, effectively creating a magical, whimsical mood. The gorgeous cinematography is another highlight; there are some things that don't make a lot of sense in the story (like Sara happily dancing in the snow wearing nothing but a nightgown), but they sure are pretty. The acting is pretty good all round, and the script itself is remarkably faithful to the book, despite one or two rather drastic changes (spoilers ahead)...

Changes That Worked
  • By placing the story at the outbreak of WWI, it gives Sara's father a stronger reason for sending her to school. The separation that hurts them both so much is not by choice.
  • As I already said, Sara is a much more likable character. She's definitely not too perfect - she's downright "wicked" at times ("cursing" Lavinia and pranking Miss Minchin) - but these are some of her most triumphant moments, where her strong spirit shone through.
  • The other girls at the school were also more likable. I love the way they put themselves at risk to get Sara's locket back for her - their friendship was touching.
  • Sara treats Becky as an equal, they BOTH receive gifts from Ram Dass and in the end it even seems as though Sara's father adopts Becky.
  • Which brings me to the biggest change - and the one that made me happiest: Sara's dad lives! I love happy endings.
Changes That Didn't
  • I don't get why the action was moved from England to America. It's not a big deal overall, I just thought it was pointless -  and it weakened the story somewhat with regards to the neighbour/benefactor. The transformation of Captain Crewe's friend into an old man who loses his son at war wouldn't bother me in itself, except that as an American, it makes no sense for the boy to have gone to war at that stage. The US didn't enter WWI until 1917.
  • I could have done without Miss Amelia's romance - I just thought it was a bit silly.
  • Miss Minchin is almost too much of a biatch to start with - she doesn't quite suck up to Sara as much as she does in the books. Plus her reasons for hating her are much less apparent, making her character more two-dimensional.
  • I missed the shopping scene with Captain Crewe and Sara, when they find Emily. I didn't like how it was the Captain who bought Emily himself, and named her, and even told Sara about how dolls come alive when we're not looking. In the book, she picks Emily, names her, and imagines that she's real - and it was one of the few things I liked about the little brat.
Rating: 4/5


  1. This was one of my favorite movies when I was a kid. I loved it so much! Now I want to watch it again. :)

  2. I liked this version too. The snow scene was one of my faves. :)

  3. I loved this book, and this movie. I remember watching the Shirley Temple version when I was a kid. Thanks for your review! Found you on Book Blogs and will be following you now!

  4. Jennie - It really such a great movie! :)

    Melissa - I agree, it's soooo pretty. Silly, but pretty. :D

    BookJunkie - Thanks for stopping by! I wasn't a fan of the book, but I love the movie. I always enjoyed the Shirley Temple version, too, I might watch it this weekend and see how it compares. :)

  5. +JMJ+

    We're total opposites when it comes to A Little Princess, Belle! The book was a childhood favourite for me, and I don't think I ever liked any of the movies. (On the other hand, there was an anime series I watched religiously as a young girl . . .)

    Still, I didn't mind Sarah getting to show a bit of spunk here. I don't think it would have hurt the story much if she had also done so in the book. Haven't there also been royals with some edge?

    Finally, I agree with you about Miss Amelia's romance. Not only was it unnecessary, it was kind of a loose thread. I remember waiting for her to pop up again after the elopement, just so the viewer could get some closure about her own happy ending, but her arc seems to have ended on a laugh at the expense of her weight. =/ Not too cool.

  6. There's an anime series?! I'll have to check that out.
    I think if I'd read the book as a child I would have enjoyed it a lot more, because the racism and so on would have gone over my head.

  7. Glad you liked the movie better than the book! I've not read / watched this one, but I love the Secret Garden. It's definitely hard to get into a book when you don't like the main character. Great reviews and I love your "changes that worked" and "changes that didn't" sections!

  8. Thanks! I love The Secret Garden too! Both the book and the movie - I enjoyed it much more than A Little Princess.

  9. I love this movie! After reading your thorough and awesome breakdown of the book and two movie versions, I don't think I'm going to taint my memories with the book or other movie. I'll keep all my happy thoughts of a likable Sarah (instead of exposing myself to a little brat I already don't like now! :P ) Thank you!

  10. That's probably wise! It's still a great movie. :)

  11. It's funny, but I thought that the Sara in the movie was far LESS likeable. In the book, she was the bewitching oddball who coped with her situaton by using her imagination and by pshyching people out. I thought her pranks in the movie took away from her "princess" air and made her seem...common.
    Also, the movie didn't really make her situation seem all that bad. Yes, she went from pupil to servant and had to trade in her luxury suite for leaky attic, but no one, with the possible exceptions of Miss Minchin and Lavinia were that mean to ther. In fact, some of the girls risked expulsion for her. Whereas in the book, Sara went from pitying everyone to being an almost universal object of derision.

  12. Interesting perspective! You had the exact opposite reaction to me. I see what you mean about how things aren't as bad for Sara in the movie... but they're still pretty bad, don't you think?

  13. In the movie, Captain Crew fought for the BRITISH army. That didn't change, only Sarah's going to boarding school in America.

    1. I didn't say he wasn't in the British army? It was the neighbour's son I was talking about.