Follow TV Tropes


Film / Madeline

Go To

The 1998 film adaptation of the Madeline book series by Ludwig Bemelmans.

The film is about a young, orphaned girl named Madeline (Hatty Jones), who attends a boarding school run by nun Miss Clavel (Frances McDormand) with eleven other girls in Paris, France, in 1956. Following her appendectomy, a Spanish boy named Pepito (Kristian De La Osa) moves in next door and begins to cause havoc toward the girls, while his tutor Leopold (Ben Daniels) intends to use the boy for a more sinister plot. Soon, the owner of the school Lord Covington (Nigel Hawthorne) reveals his intentions to sell the house, since his wife has just passed away.

It's up to Madeline and her friends to save their school from closing, tame the boy next door, and prevent a villain from promoting his plan.

Not to be confused with Madeline, a 1952 animated short that was nominated for an Academy Award.

This film contains examples of:

  • Actionized Adaptation: An action-oriented subplot is added with the villain posing as a tutor for Pepito and subsequently kidnapping him and Madeline for ransom.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The Movie managed to faithfully recreate four of the books in a span of 90 minutes: Madeline, Madeline's Rescue, Madeline and the Bad Hat, and Madeline and the Gypsies.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Madeline's hair is bright candy-apple red in the books, while it's a much lighter red in the film, bordering on strawberry blonde.
    • Genevieve the dog is typically portrayed as having brown fur, yet is a yellow Labrador in this film.
  • Adaptation Expansion: Besides combining four of the original six books into a single plot, the film also adds a Saving the Boarding School storyline when Lord Covington/Cucuface decides to sell it after his wife's death, as well as the above-mentioned "kidnapping by villainous tutor" storyline.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Pepito is changed from an animal abuser in the books and DiC series to a Badass Biker, and is less cruel to the girls. He does (nearly) commit animal cruelty when he almost feeds a live mouse to a snake, much to Madeline's chagrin, but it's nowhere near the extent of the book.
  • Adaptation Name Change: In this continuity, Lord Cucuface is renamed Lord Covington. He is called "Cucuface" by Madeline as a Malicious Misnaming, though. Mrs. Murphy's first name is Hélène here, too.
  • Adaptational Nationality: Lord Covington seems to be of British origin, as "Covington" is most certainly not a French surname, yet it is more ambiguous with the girls as one the one hand, they are students at a boarding school, while on the other it may just be a case of Accent Adaptation.
  • Adaptation Personality Change: Compared to the DiC animated series. Madeline is more abrasive, bordering on Jerk with a Heart of Gold, as opposed to her more sweetly spunky cartoon characterization. Ms. Clavel becomes a Badass Teacher (and driver) in the third act. Hélène (originally Mrs. Murphy) is changed from a timid cook to The Lad-ette, and instead of all the girls being the best of friends, one of them, Vicki, is an Alpha Bitch. Since the original books are fairly thin in characterization, it makes sense that different adaptations should take the characters in different directions.
  • Adaptational Villainy: In the animated version of Madeline and the Gypsies the traveling performance troupe rescue Madeline and Pepito left behind on a ride and arrange to send them home; when they sneak onto the troupe’s caravan instead, the troupe members nonetheless take care of them until they eventually do go back home. In the film, the circus’s clown troupe are part of a kidnapping plot (lead by Pepito’s tutor) of Pepito (with Madeline as collateral) for ransom.
  • Adopt the Food: Zigzagged. Madeline wants to keep a chicken named Fred as a pet but Helene the cook wants to kill and cook him instead and adds that the boarding school that Madeline and the other eleven girls attend does not allow pets. When Madeline finds (presumably) Fred dead, she decides to become vegetarian and the other girls (except Vicky) follow suit.
  • Age Lift: In the books, the little girls and Pepito are all about seven, while here they must be ten at least.
  • Alpha Bitch: Vicki. She comes from a rich family, and her uncle is the British Ambassador to Spain.
  • And Starring: The cast roll here ends with "and introducing Hatty Jones".
  • Artistic Title: The opening credits feature Clip-Art Animation of the front covers of the first three books, capped off with a dissolve from a drawing of the school to a live-action establishing shot of the building.
  • Avoid the Dreaded G Rating: The use of the word "damn" a few times in the movie was more or less there to give the movie a PG rating.
  • Badass Biker: Pepito, especially during the climax.
  • Badass Teacher: Miss Clavel eventually proves to be this towards the end. The moment she finds out that one of her students, particularly the sole orphan who's teetering on a Despair Event Horizon, has been kidnapped, she drives off into the French countryside to track her kidnappers down.
  • Batman Gambit: At one point, Madeline tells Pepito to be quiet and stay out of trouble while the prospective buyers are looking at the school, knowing that he'll do the exact opposite.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Madeline. Don't frighten her friends or feed baby mice to a snake, or you'll have a young girl try to gut you down.
  • Big Bad: Leopold, Pepito’s tutor, plotting to kidnap Pepito as ransom.
  • Break the Haughty: Madeline does this to Lord Covington at the end.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The motorcycle used by the Idiots during the circus scene.
    • Also, there is Hélène's foul-smelling cheese, the solid oak door, and Pepito, which were later used as part of Madeline's ploy to turn off potential ambassadors from buying the school.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Pepito's ability to drive motorcycles is what saved him and Madeline from Leopold. Also Leopold teaching Pepito to use a paperclip/pin to start his bike after Madeline had taken his key.
  • Conveniently Placed Sharp Thing: The Idiots leave their knives inside the truck, and Madeline spots them, allowing her and Pepito to cut themselves free.
    Pepito: What idiots!
  • Cool Bike: Pepito really enjoys riding his Vespa and a few of the girls mention his bike when they're fawning over him from their bedroom window.
  • Curse Cut Short: Occurs briefly.
    Hélène: I once fell in love with a carnival man. He broke my heart, you know. And he had a beautiful tattoo down-
    Miss Clavel: Hélène, please!
  • Darker and Edgier: The DiC animated series (with the exception of Lost in Paris) is tame compare to the film when it comes to adaptions. It helps that the film contains frightening scenes, a character dying of illness early on, child kidnapping and the use of the word "damn".
  • Death by Adaptation: In the film, Madeline is an orphan. In the books, her parents are alive.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: One of the Idiots, despite having taken part in the kidnapping of children, draws the line at driving into a nun. He even crosses himself when he first sees her. The other two have no such qualms, however.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Alpha Bitch Vicki doesn't think as highly of Madeline nor gets along with her as well as the others, but she's just as shocked and then relieved as everyone else when Madeline falls into the river and gets rescued by Genevieve. And when Madeline still hasn't returned after running away, Vicki is sobbing about how much she misses her.
  • Evil Clown: The Idiots.
  • Feet-First Introduction: The viewers first see Madeline as she searches for her hat. The camera focuses on her shoes, then reveals her face once she finds her hat underneath some furniture.
  • The '50s: Set in 1957 rather than 1939 to avoid references to World War II.
  • Freudian Excuse:
    • As in the animated version, Pepito's mischief stems from his parents being too busy to spend much time with him.
    • Part of Lord Covington's gruff and almost cruel demeanor stems from his grief at losing his wife early on.
  • Gender-Concealing Writing: When trying to convince the Uzbekistan ambassador couple to let them keep the school, Ms. Clavel appeals to "Mr. Ambassador" only for the man to reveal that his wife is the Ambassador. Lord Covington and Madeline are just as surprised.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Madeline. She actually attacks Pepito when he attempts to feed a baby mouse to a snake. She later confronts Leopold after seeing him kidnap Pepito, but finds herself captured as well.
  • Groin Attack: While getting tied up with Pepito, Madeline kicks one of the Idiots in the junk. He collapses in pain.
  • Hairpin Lockpick: Leopold teaches Pepito how to use this trick when the keys from his motorcycle were stolen. Pepito uses this later at the climax to escape.
  • Hate at First Sight: Madeline to Pepito, despite him helping her catch her hat after it's blown off. Her hatred is sealed later that night after he frightens the whole class in a demon costume.
  • Heartwarming Orphan: While more abrasive than in most adaptations, Madeline is one in this adaptation.
  • Hot Drink Cure: When Miss Clavel thinks Madeline is sick, she orders her to drink tea (as well as stay in bed and eat soup).
  • Like a Son to Me: Or daughter in this case: Miss Clavel for Madeline. Since Madeline is an orphan, Miss Clavel is the closest thing to a mother she has.
  • Literal-Minded: Upon hearing a classmate exclaim, "Madeline's burning upnote , Miss Clavel!" Chantal offers to call the fire department.
  • Lying Finger Cross: When the Indian Ambassador shows up at the (sabotaged) Old House, the girls greet him and his wife in a sweet manner, and several of them cross their fingers behind their backs.
  • Mama Bear: When Miss Clavel learns that Madeline is missing, she drops everything to go find her.
  • Meaningful Echo: "I can do anything." Madeline first says this just before undergoing surgery at the beginning of the film (having been taught those four words by Miss Clavel). She later recalls those words when captured with Pepito near the end of the film, which ultimately leads to them escaping.
  • Mistaken for Flatulence: The girls work together to stop Lord Covington from selling their school by sabotaging it. One of the ways they do this is by hiding a wheel of Hélène's foul-smelling cheese in the music room. When Lord Covington shows two potential buyers the music room, the buyers smell the stinky cheese, and the wife looks sternly at her husband, who says "Don't look at me!"
  • Named by the Adaptation: As with other adaptations, the other girls are given names for this movie. Some of them are named Aggie, Vicki, Chantal, Lolo, Serena, Beatrice, Lucinda, and Marie Odile.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Leopold teaching Pepito to use a hairpin for a key wasn't the smartest thing for him, as he uses this to use the motorcycle in the truck both Madeline and Pepito were inside.
  • Noodle Incident: The reason why the first ambassador couple refused to purchase the Old House is due to bad memories of a reckless boy from another country, whom Pepito reminded them of.
  • Oh, Crap!: Miss Clavel gets this twice, always saying "Something is not right". The second time she says it, she puts her nun outfit back on before checking up on the girls.
    • Madeline and Genevieve get this when Lord Covington gives an ambassador couple a tour of the house, and hide in the kitchen. Then Covington takes the couple to the kitchen, guaranteeing that they will be caught... until the ambassador mentions that "kitchens are his staff's business", causing them to not enter.
    • The Idiots get this when they notice Miss Clavel on the other side of a reservoir. When they end up in a collision course, all three panic; Leopold and one of the Idiots enter a Villainous Breakdown, while the other begs them to not crash into her because she's a nun.
  • Overly Long Name: Jose Marco Filippo Franloco Lopez de Vega Esteban Machado Jorge Santiago dela Rocha Gaspar Carlos de Fuentes Coruna Diego y Sevilla, aka, Pepito. This is somewhat Truth in Television as Hispanic people often pass down names from their ancestors.
  • Parental Substitute: Miss Clavel is the closest thing to a mother for Madeline. In fact, one of the nurses asked if Ms. Clavel was Madeline's mother when she was taken to the hospital.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation:
    • In order to avoid setting the story during in the 1930's the shadow of the Second World War, the story is set in the 1950's during the Cold War.
    • Due to the fact that "Cucuface" would be quite ridiculous, the character is given the actual surname of "Covington", with "Cucuface" being a nickname Madeline gives him behind his back.
  • Reverse Psychology: Madeline entices Pepito into causing mischief at Covington's second open house by telling him that the school is hosting important guests and asking him to be quiet.
  • Road Apples: Lord Covington stepped on some dog poop after leaving the school, which he was able to find out about them keeping a dog in the yard.
  • Ruptured Appendix: At the beginning of the movie, as with the original book.
  • Saving the Orphanage: An original subplot in the film where Lord Covington wants to sell the boarding school after his wife's death. Though it bears a loose reference to an episode of the TV series where the old house is condemned for poor conditions and the girls are forced to move out.
  • Secret Pet Plot: Madeline is rescued from drowning by a Golden Retriever, who follows the girls home. They try to keep the dog, who they name Genevieve, in secret since pets aren't allowed at their boarding school, however Miss Clavel is allergic to dogs and finds out when she starts sneezing.
  • Setting Update: The books and animated series take place in the 1930s, but to avoid the shadow of World War II, this film takes place in the 1950s instead.
  • Ship Tease: Quite a few between Madeline and Pepito. When Leopold kidnaps them near the end of the film, a police officer wants to believe that they ran away together out of love, even though they're both 10-years old.
  • Shout-Out: The Lying Finger Cross moment has several close-ups, which is similar to that of Veruca Salt's own close up finger cross in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Leopold's henchman. It helps that they are circus clowns called the Idiots.
  • Teacher's Unfavorite Student: Zigzagged with Miss Clavel. On the one hand, she finds Madeline to be her most challenging student due to her being a show-off and once said to her, "You're giving me grey hair." On the other hand, Clavel also feels sorry for Madeline because Madeline's an orphan.
  • The End: Written in French, "Fin", at the end of the movie.
  • They Don't Make Them Like They Used To: The solid oak door in the Old House, which Lord Covington seems to be quite proud of. The door was later unhinged during the Indian Ambassador's tour of the house, so when it falls, one of them replies, "That's probably a good thing".
  • Unconventional Vehicle Chase: Leopold and his idiot henchmen have the motorcycle they used for their acts kept inside the truck Madeline and Pepito were trapped. Guess what happens?
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: One of the idiot henchmen is left behind when Leopold and the other two chase after Madeline and Pepito in the stolen motorcycle. We don't know if he got arrested or if he got away.
  • Writing Lines: After Madeline ruins Pepito's birthday party and gets her, Miss Clavel, and the other girls kicked out, Miss Clavel makes the girls write "I will control my temper" on paper 200 times as punishment. When she discovers that Vicki only wrote it 197 times, she makes her do it again, and Vicki is quick to blame Madeline for it.