Madeline is the titular character in a series of children's books by European author Ludwig Bemelmans. The first book was published in 1939 and Bemelmans continued writing them into the 1950's. The stories have been adapted into several animated shorts as well as animated shows which have aired on the Family Channel, ABC, and the Disney Channel. There was even a live-action film in 1998 starring young Hatty Jones (in her only film appearance) and co-starring Frances McDormand and Nigel Hawthorne.
Madeline is an orphan and lives at a private school in Paris with eleven other girls. As often mentioned in the stories, Madeline is the smallest of the twelve. The girls are cared for by a kindly nun named Sister Clavell. Madeline is almost always accompanied by her beloved and adorable dog, Genevieve. Other characters include Lord Cucuface, the chairman of the school's board of trustees, and Pepito, the son of the Spanish ambassador who lives next door.
"The Madeline Movie: Lost in Paris" is the young girl's first full-length animated film. It was produced in 1999 by animation studio DiC who also produced such cartoon series as "Inspector Gadget" and "The Real Ghostbusters." It was released for the direct-to-video market by Disney and is being re-released by Shout! Factory on DVD for the first time.
"Lost in Paris" finds Madeline (Andrea Libman) pining for a real family. Like a knight in shining armor, along comes a mustachioed man named Horst (Jason Alexander) who claims to be Madeline's long-lost uncle. Uncle Horst promises to be the family she's always wanted. The catch is Uncle Horst wants Madeline to live with him in Vienna. He plans to enroll her into a prestigious finishing school attended by the offspring of royalty. Madeline and friends do their best to convince him to let her stay, but he is not swayed.
Relocating to another country is the least of Madeline's problems. Ol' Uncle Horst turns out to be a phony. He is really Henri; a former actor turned con man in the employ of Madame La Croque (Lauren Bacall). Together, they plan on swindling Madeline of her inheritance. Even worse, Mme. La Croque has taken in other orphan girls putting them to work in a sweatshop weaving lace out of their own hair. Now, that's evil.
"Lost in Paris" follows the formula of many Disney classics peppering the narrative with several musical numbers. Unlike those Disney classics, the songs aren't very memorable. After viewing the film, I couldn't hum a single tune if you paid me. And believe me, I could use the money. All I can recall are songs about family and working together.
The story itself is simplistic and predictable. Not that it's a detriment here. The movie is geared towards a very young audience. Therefore, the plot is breezy and easy to follow. There may be villains in the piece, but no true sense of danger. The little ones won't have anything to fear.
The voice-over cast isn't a revelation here, but they more than earn their paychecks. The former George Costanza, Jason Alexander, sounds like he's having fun with Horst performing in exaggerated foreign accents. You've also got Christopher Plummer as the narrator. He provides the presence of a kindly grandfather reading a bedtime story. It's a far cry from his performance as the crazed Charles Muntz in "Up." As Mme. La Croque, Lauren Bacall attempts to inject a little Cruella Deville into her character. La Croque also has a really cute origin story. A former can-can dancer, La Croque turned to the dark side after the audience laughed at her when she tore her stockings and fell off stage. Kidnapping orphan girls seems like an odd method of revenge.
The video is presented in fullscreen. The animation is as simple as the story. It is well-done, but lacks any real depth. The transfer is relatively clean though the film's primary color palette doesn't pop as it should.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0. Dialogue comes in crisp and clean.
"Madeline: Lost in Paris" will probably be too saccharine for the tastes of older audiences. However, I'm sure younger viewers will likely eat it up by the spoonful. This is wholesome family entertainment.
"That's all there is, there isn't anymore."