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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that A Little Princess is a 1995 drama in which an imaginative young girl begins attending a strict and austere girls' school. There's some war violence, including images of war with dead men strewn about trenches and explosions in the background. Her father is presumed dead, and much of the movie concerns Sara's struggles as a now-destitute orphan. Sara is a remarkable character, however. She always sticks up for herself and others and captivates all the schoolgirls with her imaginative stories, and encourages them to believe in themselves as she tells them that "all girls are princesses." Sara's retellings of the stories of Prince Rama and Princess Sita contain some monstrous imagery that might be scary for younger and more sensitive viewers. Some moments of bad behavior from little girls, including a girl who throws loud temper tantrums, and a snotty girl who acts superior and is shown dipping the hair of an unpopular girl into her ink well.
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What's the story?
In A LITTLE PRINCESS, motherless Sara Crewe (Liesel Matthews) is brought to Miss Minchin's boarding school by her father, who's heading off to war. She is the brightest girl in the school, with exquisite manners, but her odd fancies and her father's lavish provisions for her make the other girls uncomfortable or jealous. Her only friend in the school is Ermengarde (Heather DeLoach), a pudgy girl who has trouble with her lessons and is very grateful for Sara's attentions. Sara also befriends Becky (Vanessa Lee Chester), a scullery maid. When Captain Crewe is thought dead and his assets seized, Miss Minchin goes from doting on her to giving her the servant's quarters in the attic next to Becky.
Is it any good?
Based on the book by Frances Hodgson Burnett published in 1905, Alfonso Cuaron's adaptation has an appealing combination of magic, drama, boarding school bullies, and a resilient orphan. This probably made Cuaron a shoe-in for the job of directing the third Harry Potter movie a few years later.
Unlike Cedric in Little Lord Fauntleroy, A Little Princess's Sara Crewe can't be accused of being perfect, though she is not as deliciously unlikable as Mary in The Secret Garden. It takes her a long time to lose her temper and snap at Ermengarde, but she does, and she almost gives up hope. Although Sara is desperately hungry, she gives almost all her food to a beggar child who is even hungrier. Note the way that her compassion inspires others; the baker who watches her give the buns to the beggar child is so moved that she gives the child a home.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Sara's empathy and compassion for others in A Little Princess. Why are stories so important to her? How do they help her deal with her sadness? How do the stories she tells relate to what's going on in her life?
What challenges do you see in adapting a book like this into a movie?
What parts of life in the boarding school seem like they could be part of any other school at any other time, and what parts of life there seem like they were very much part of the early 20th century?
- In theaters: May 10, 1995
- On DVD or streaming: September 15, 1998
- Cast: Camilla Belle, Eleanor Bron, Liam Cunningham
- Director: Alfonso Cuaron
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Book Characters, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models
- Character Strengths: Communication, Compassion, Empathy, Gratitude
- Run time: 97 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
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