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Madeline is a 1998 live action film adaptation of the book series by Ludwig Bemelmans, starring Hatty Jones as Madeline FoggFrances McDormand as Miss Clavel and Nigel Hawthorne as Lord Cucuface aka Lord Covington. The film encompasses the plots of four Madeline books. It was released on July 10, 1998 by TriStar Pictures.

Plot

In 1956 Paris, France, a young girl named Madeline attends a boarding school run by Miss Clavel, a no-nonsense and caring nun. She is the only orphan and wishes she had a family since her parents died when she was very small. She goes on daily walks, eats her favorite meal, "Chicken Hélène" (a chicken dish named after the cook, Hélène, who makes it), and often causes mischief for Miss Clavel. One night, Miss Clavel feels that something is not right, so she runs up to the girls' room and finds Madeline groaning in pain on her bed. Quickly, Hélène dials the hospital, who explains to Miss Clavel that Madeline must have an appendectomy. During her stay in the hospital overnight, after the surgery, Madeline wanders down the hallway, and finds Lady Covington. The two begin to talk, and Lady Covington reveals to Madeline that she carved her name under Madeline's bed, Marie Gilbert. She asks Madeline to see if it's still there. Their conversation is interrupted by the strict Lord Covington, who orders Madeline to leave. A few days later, when Madeline is ready to go, she and Miss Clavel discover that Lady Covington had died. She then sees a chicken in Hélène's car, and finds out that Chicken Hélène will be served that night.

When Madeline arrives back at school, she meets Pepito, the Spanish Ambassador's son, who is the main target of an evil kidnapper named Leopold who wants to collect money from the Ambassador since he's rich. That night, Madeline refuses to eat the chicken, whom she named "Fred" because she made friends with him in the car. She turns almost all of the other girls against the chicken dish and make them vegetarians and cluck, which results in Miss Clavel sending the girls to bed without dinner, after a discussion with Lord Covington about how he'll close the school down as he has resigned from his job due to his wife's death. The girls are eventually hungry so they sneak downstairs to eat, only to get scared by Pepito, who sneaks up on them disguised as a demon. When Miss Clavel and Hélène find the girls, they reluctantly decide to give them dinner. The next day, Miss Clavel goes next door to Pepito's house to offer him a toolbox and ends up talking with Leopold, who is posing as Pepito's tutor. Then, Miss Clavel takes the girls to an art gallery where Pepito himself steals Madeline's drawing pad unnoticed and writes "Beware" with a vicious drawing in it. The girls wonder why until Miss Clavel tells them that they have been invited to Pepito's 10th birthday party. While there, Pepito shows the girls his menagerie and attempts to scare them by dangling a white baby mouse in front of them. It works on the other girls, but not on Madeline, as she is not afraid of mice. Pepito tries to scare her by preparing to feed it to his snake, but Madeline insists he's bluffing. Pepito calls it off and shows the girls his guillotine that he built with the tools in his new toolbox and almost executes the mouse. Madeline defends the mouse by pushing Pepito away. She releases the other caged mice in retaliation, and this causes the girls to run in horror and subsequently causes an approaching Miss Clavel to faint. Madeline starts fighting Pepito, but Miss Clavel stops her and insists they leave. On their way out, Madeline steals Pepito's motorcycle keys to get even with him.

On their walk, Madeline accidentally falls into the Seine near Notre Dame and is rescued by a stray dog, whom she and the other girls later name Genevieve. Madeline catches a cold, and when Miss Clavel and the rest of the girls leave on their walk, she hears Pepito complaining he doesn't have his keys. Leopold successfully starts it with a paper clip instead. Meanwhile, Genevieve finds Madeline and the two try to hide from Lord Covington who is showing the house to the Liberian Ambassador and his wife. Eventually, Miss Clavel finds out about Genevieve, but compromises and says she can sleep in the shed and be kept, but is not allowed in the school. Meanwhile, Madeline and Pepito sabotage the school, so the next visitors, the Indian Ambassador and his wife, won't want to buy it. Lord Covington comes over that night, and has an argument with Miss Clavel about the school getting sabotaged, but Madeline interrupts and admits she did it, trying to back up Miss Clavel, but makes a Freudian slip by calling Lord Covington "Lord Cucuface". On his way back home, Covington discovers Genevieve and turns her loose despite the pleads of the girls.

They and Miss Clavel look for her the next day and go to a circus to cheer themselves up, but Madeline decides to run away with the circus because she feels lonely and wants a real home. She tells her best friend Aggie that she's leaving, and makes her swear not to tell a soul. Aggie swears and hugs her goodbye. Madeline walks away sadly and notices Leopold kidnapping Pepito with the help of clowns called "The Idiots Popopov", since they were really Leopold's henchmen. Madeline tries to confront Leopold, who openly mocks and abducts her as well just as a thunderstorm brews, ending the carnival and circus. Miss Clavel, at first not knowing they had been kidnapped, eventually finds out from Aggie that Madeline has run away and leaves to find her. While on her way, she finds Genevieve and takes her along. The next morning, Madeline and Pepito discover a motorcycle that the Idiots used in their circus act at the carnival. She suggests that Pepito drives it, since he drove one, but Pepito states he drives a Vespa scooter, which is very different from a motorbike as it does not have gears. He is nonetheless convinced by Madeline, and the two use it to escape Leopold, who, along with the other Idiots, follows them. Miss Clavel sees them pursuing them and in turn pursues Leopold. Miss Clavel and Leopold are about to both hit Madeline and Pepito, but Pepito swerves away just in time and Miss Clavel cuts Leopold off, making him and the Idiots crash into a nearby lake. The police arrive on the scene, the Idiots and Leopold are arrested for kidnapping, and Pepito and Madeline are reunited with their families.

Just when everything turns out happily, Lord Covington comes once again and introduces the Ambassador of Uzbekistan (then part of the USSR), who agreed to buy the school. Madeline confronts Covington and convinces him that his wife is still with him, and in the school also. Miss Clavel assures Madeline that whatever happens, they'll be together. But Covington denies this, who says that Madeline is right, and wishes he could do something about it, but has already sold the school. However, the Ambassador (a female) calls it off, letting everybody remain at the school. The movie ends with the girls running off in various directions at the Luxembourg Palace gardens, while Miss Clavel follows them. The live-action setting goes back to a storybook-like setting and the word "Fin" appears.

Cast

The children

The adults

Home video

Madeline was released to home video in the same year, part of the Columbia TriStar Family Collection series. It was released to DVD in 2004.

Reception

This film received mixed reviews upon release; it now has 64% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 28 reviews. On their TV show, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert awarded the film with "Two Thumbs Up" (see photo of film). Nell Minow of Common Sense Media said that the movie was "great for young kids and fans of the books." AOL movie critic Brandon Judell said of it, "No horribly arch double entendres to draw in audiences who can't spend two hours in a theater without having their libido massaged." Jeffery Huston called it "a disarming, charming fable so artfully crafted that adults will fall under its spell." Conversely, John R. McEwen gave a negative review, stating that the movie was: "...Adequately simple for children, though perhaps a bit pedestrian for adults."