A Little Princess

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Details At A Glance

Category Family Theatrical Trailer(s) None
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1995 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 93:21 minutes Other Extras None
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Movie
Region 2,4 Director Alfonso Cuaron
Warner Bros
Warner Home Video
Starring Eleanor Bron
Liam Cunningham
Liesel Matthews
Case Snapper
RRP $34.95 Music Patrick Doyle

Pan & Scan/Full Frame No MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement
Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s)
Italian (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s)
Dutch (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    For the life of me I am still trying to work out how this particular film ended up on my review pile, as it is definitely not to my tastes at all. So perhaps you should bear that in mind whilst reading the review. These sorts of "family" films are virtually guaranteed to reduce me to a catatonic state that can only be arrested by a serious dose of some mindless action - something by Steven Seagal springs to mind. Still, if this is the sort of thing you like, then you are unlikely to be disappointed.

    Based upon the book by Frances Hodgson Burnett, the film is set in the World War I period. Sara Crewe (Liesel Matthews) and her father (Liam Cunningham), a captain in the British Army, have to leave India at the start of the war when Captain Crewe has to go to serve at the front. Sara is an imaginative young lady and delights in stories based upon Indian mythology. In order to protect her as much as possible from the war, Captain Crewe takes his daughter to the seminary in New York that her late mother attended, run by Miss Minchin (Eleanor Bron). Leaving his daughter to the mercies of the school, Captain Crewe departs for the war. Sara becomes the centre of attention at school as a result of her wonderful stories and everything seems to be fine, until news arrives that Captain Crewe died at the front. Sara's world turns upside down, as she is now alone in the world, her father's assets have been seized by the British government and the only way that Sara can stay at the seminary is to work as a servant girl. From the depths of despair, through her kindness and imagination, Sara survives and those around her benefit from her strength of character. The pleasant twist is of course that Captain Crewe has not died, and is reunited with not only his daughter but her good friend, and new sister, Becky (Vanessa Lee Chester), another young servant girl.

    Okay, the story does as much for me as such delights as having my teeth pulled or trying to complete an Ultimate Beneficiary Statement for the Australian Taxation Office. The highlights of the film are actually the fantasy segments based upon Sara's stories, which are highlighted by some vivid colours and some decent effects work. Still, Liesel Matthews does a fair job as Sara and carries her role pretty well. Eleanor Bron does a wonderful job as the disciplinarian head of the seminary and is utterly believable (in fact, too believable as she is a dead ringer for a headmistress that I used to know). Liam Cunningham is reasonable as the father, but the real stand-out here is Rusty Schwimmer in the minor role of Amelia Minchin, the suffering sister. The whole thing is fairly well put together by Alfonso Cuaron, but what stands out here is the cinematography - which was nominated for an Oscar in 1996. The film also copped an Oscar nomination for Best Art Direction - Set Decoration.

    To me this is a waste of a good DVD, but there are plenty who will disagree with me here. As a family film it will no doubt keep the children reasonably happy though.

Transfer Quality


    Okay, the film does bugger all for me, but there is no quibble about the video transfer here - it is very good indeed.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced.

    This is a sumptuous transfer, very nicely sharp and detailed throughout. In general, the backgrounds tend towards being a little diffuse, but this would appear to be a deliberate choice by the director. Shadow detail is good throughout. Apart from a couple of minor instances where noise appeared to be a problem, there were no serious problems in that regard with the transfer.

    This is a wonderfully vibrant transfer, especially the fantasy segments where the colours are gorgeously bright and vivid. There is a nice contrast in the vivid colours of the scenes in India and the fantasies, as compared to the drabber settings of New York. This really is a beautiful looking transfer. There is no hint of oversaturation at all in the transfer, apart from some slight problem in the closing credits.

   There were no apparent MPEG artefacts in the transfer. Apart from some extremely minor instances of aliasing that hardly rate a mention, film-to-video artefacts were not a problem in the transfer. Film artefacts were relatively absent from the transfer, and those that were present were hardly any distraction to the film.

    Whilst no subtitle options listed on the packaging were missing this time round, here were still two available subtitle options not listed on the packaging: the usually omitted Romanian and Bulgarian options.


   The audio transfer is a very good one too.

   There are four audio tracks on the DVD, all being Dolby Digital 5.1 efforts: English, French, Italian and Dutch. I listened to the default English soundtrack.

   Dialogue was clear and easy to understand throughout.

   There did not appear to be any audio sync problems with the transfer.

   The musical score comes from Patrick Doyle, although it is not an especially memorable effort in my view.

   This is a very nicely detailed soundtrack, with some rather nice detail in the surround channels where it was required. As the film is very dialogue driven, there is not an awful lot that could be expected from the bass channel, and surround opportunities are not exactly frequent. There is a lot of space in the sound which gives it a nice feel, and really helps to give the dialogue a nice spatial feel, not at all like the obviously centrally located efforts that we normally get.


    Another Warners effort that is sadly devoid of any extras whatsoever.


    Not too bad an effort but it has so little to do that it is not really not worth bothering about.

R4 vs R1

    The Region 4 release misses out on three trailers, one for this film and two for The Secret Garden - both the 1949 film and the 1993 remake. It also misses out on a Pan and Scan version of the film. Whilst none of these really would decisively tip my decision either way, if pushed I would have to say that Region 1 would be the way to go.


    Well as you may have guessed this bored the living daylights out of me, and it really is a film that I wished I had managed to avoid. Still, there is no denying the technical quality of the DVD so if the film is to your taste, then there is nothing of any consequence to prevent me from recommending the disc to you. If you are not too sure about the film though, I strongly suggest that you give it a rent first.

    A very good video transfer.

    A very good audio transfer.

    Extras? Yeah, right.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris
27th February 2000

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 84cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL