Shout! Factory // 1999 // 75 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // March 24th, 2010
"The people that love you most...that's family."
Being the older brother of no less than five younger sisters, I've been quite familiar with the Madeline franchise for quite some time. Not only were some of my sisters enamored with the many Madeline children's books written by Ludwig Bemelmans, but also with some of the animated specials that were produced during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Throughout the majority of the '90s, the specials were narrated by the great Christopher Plummer, who took his final bow in that role during 1999's straight-to-video feature film The Madeline Movie: Lost in Paris. That feature is now re-appearing in a straightforward DVD reissue, completely free of bonus features or extra frills.
The story is also quite straightforward: Madeline (Andrea Libman, Little Women) is still an orphan living at a French boarding school (not an orphanage, as so many have mistakenly assumed) with the kind Miss Clavel (Stevie Vallance, 3 Men and a Baby) and her friendly fellow students. One day, Madeline receives a letter from her long-lost Uncle Horst (Jason Alexander, Seinfeld). Our young protagonist is very excited indeed to learn that she has a family and that her uncle wants to adopt her and take her to a proper home. Alas, "Uncle Horst" is not what he seems. His real name is Henri and he only pretended to be Madeline's uncle so that he could get custody of her and force her to work for the villainous Madame LaCroque (Lauren Bacall, The Big Sleep) in a sweat shop. Mwahahahaha! Needless to say, brave little Madeline uses her resources to get out of the situation and reunite with Miss Clavel and all of her friends. (If you try to complain about the lack of a spoiler warning right now, I will smack you.)
The Madeline Movie: Lost in Paris is an exceedingly simple, innocent film that does what it does in as pleasant and predictable a manner as possible. You'll be able to see precisely where the story is going within minutes ("Uncle Horst" might as well be twirling that big old mustache of his), but the film will undoubtedly appeal to its target audience. The film is a faithful representation of both the general tone and the art style of the books, which is really all you can ask for in this sort of situation. Personally, I was a bit bored by the movie, as it's very specifically geared toward very young viewers without any attempts to provide older viewers with stimulation either on any level. That's okay; the movie is what it needs to be.
The voice acting is solid across the board, with Plummer's warm narration and Bacall's entertainingly villainous turn serving as the highlights. Jason Alexander also seems to be having a good time toying with a goofy French accent, while seasoned voice actors Andrea Libman and Stevie Vallance are sure-handed pros in the key roles of Madeline & Miss Clavel.
The transfer is a bit mediocre, with some of the more active moments appearing blurry and suffering from minor color bleeding. The colors don't quite pop off the screen the way they ought to; the movie honestly looks older than it is. Even so, the kiddies probably won't notice or mind very much. Audio is quite solid, with the warmly stereotypical waltz music ("We're in Paris, cue the accordians!") coming through with clarity. Dialogue is clean and clear as well. As I mentioned earlier, there are no extras on the disc.
Though a mediocre transfer and a complete lack of supplements makes me a bit less enthusiastic about this release than I might have been, The Madeline Movie: Lost in Paris is a perfectly acceptable bit of entertainment for young children.
How could Madeline ever be guilty of anything?
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 75 Minutes
Release Year: 1999
MPAA Rating: Not Rated