The Penniless Princess: Part 5
As in the book, Carrisford and his servant/s prepare a surprise for the poor little girl next door to them. (They mean Sara, of course; Becky doesn’t seem to be much noticed.) While Sara sleeps, the peas and the poodle decorate her room and cover her with blankets and leave a bunch of food. Hilariously, it is the poodle who does the lion’s share of the work…possibly because she has functional limbs.
As in the book, Sara wakes up and believes she is still dreaming, though this Sara describes it as “the best dream in the world.” Which, not to be insensitive or anything, but wouldn’t the best dream in the world involve getting her beloved father back?
In the book, Sara is convinced she is not dreaming because a dream fire would not feel hot. Here, it is because she can taste chocolate. And in the book, Sara immediately goes to get Becky and bring her over to share. Here, Becky has to come under her own steam.
“Oh, Miss Sara, m’night was so bad, it was—“
Dude, seriously. I…don’t think I want to know.
In the book, a note has been left for Sara, that this is all from “a friend.” Additionally, Sara gives some credit to “The Magic,” but knows she has a new human friend. And from the beginning, she wants to thank that friend, even though knowing who it is would make things just a bit less magical. In fact, she writes a heartfelt note and leaves it for the friend (who manages to sneak into the room and take away leftovers and leave fresh while the girls are working).
In The Penniless Princess, things are so much simpler:
“God did it. He’s taking care of us!”
And no, Sara doesn’t even thank that God, much less the vegetable agents of his will.
Sara and Becky sing a refrain of the Keepin’ On song, which is a lot easier to believe when you’re warm and well-fed. The poodle puppy, Soleil, even finds Mortimer and leaves him on the bed. I think we can agree at this point that Soleil is the real heroine of this story.
In fact, Soleil is so committed to detail that she accidentally stays in the room too long, getting the positioning of a vase just right. Sara thinks Soleil has just “wandered over” because she smelled food, and resolves to take her back next door. The same thing happens in the book, only with the Indian manservant’s pet monkey.
Then another book scene is mirrored, where Amelia finally calls out Miss Minchin on her treatment of Sara with a glorious Reasons You Suck speech. (Again, Becky doesn’t get a mention.) They have a “you’re-fired-you-can’t-fire-me-I-quit” moment.
(This scene is one of the very few places where the 1986 miniseries deviated from the book. In the book, Amelia gives the Reasons You Suck speech, but it is presumed that she continues on as partner at the school. In the miniseries, in an awesome worm-turning moment, Amelia resigns in protest, even if it means a future as “a frumpish nursemaid.”)
Anyway, at the next-door house, the peas are planning the evening, with an admittedly gigglesome exchange:
“I sink tonight we should bake zee girls a secret cake.”
“Wiz a secret surprise eenside! Like a pair of very nice shoes.”
“Eenside zee cake?”
“I am only brainstorming.”
Sara meets with Carrisford, who immediately opens his heart to her, explaining that he needs a miracle.
“Oh, I believe in miracles, Mr. Carrisford.”
Carrisford tells her about the poor girl he is trying to find (without naming her, natch), and Sara volunteers to “help” by praying for her. But of course, to properly pray for her, she needs to know her name, and Carrisford tells her, and then she tells him her father’s name, and thus they each discover who the other is.
Names of Sara’s father in versions of A Little Princess:
Book and 1986 miniseries: Ralph
1917 Mary Pickford version: Richard
1939 Shirley Temple version: Reginald
1995 Liesel Matthews version: (no first name given)
Shokojo Seira: Ryunosuke
The Penniless Princess: Douglas
Damn, VeggieTales, why you deviate? Was “Ralph” deemed a silly name or something? And why not at least follow the deviation tradition and pick an “R” name.
On the bright side, however, I’d like to point out something awesome here:
CAPTAIN CREWE REMAINS DEAD!!!
Seriously, I went into this movie with strong reservations. You see, the 1939 Shirley Temple version, followed by the 1995 Liesel Matthews version, both changed the story and made Captain Crewe SURPRISE not dead after all. Spared by the Adaptation (in both movies, due to a case of injury-in-battle-causes-amnesia), Sara (accidentally in the 1995 version, on purpose in the 1939 version) finds her father, and they live happily ever after.
Now, this is bizarre and disturbing for several different reasons. For one, it creates a YUUUGE plothole in the 1939 version. Sara is informed that her father’s fortune was “confiscated by the enemy.” By the end of the film, this has never been resolved, leaving us to conclude that, sure, they are together again, but still dirt poor.
I have a real problem with this because of the message it sends. Shirley Temple’s Sara refuses to believe her father is dead. She “knows it can’t be.” So she hunts for him for months. But this is a movie involving the Boer War, where soldiers are dying by the day. Indeed, there is a small but heartrenching scene in which people are checking the lists of the wounded and the dead, and an older woman is led away in hysterics, because her only son has died. So Sara gets her father back, because it “can’t be” that he is dead, but this poor woman’s son is still gone? Well, gee, lady, I guess you just didn’t want it enough.
Similar thing happens in the Liesel Matthews version, where Sara does believe her father is dead, but happily finds him alive. I mean, okay, I get that they don’t want people to cry, right? But is it really a better strategy to teach kids that death isn’t permanent? That if you just wish hard enough, dead people won’t stay dead?
Where was I? Oh yeah, The Penniless Princess. Carrisford Asparagus promises to take care of Sara from now on, natch, and the peas are again kinda cute and funny:
“Why did we not ask her name sooner?”
“It seems so obvious after the fact!”
Then Miss Minchin comes over to collect Sara, and all is revealed, and Miss Minchin has an exchange with Sara that is out of the book, but changed ever so slightly.
In the book:
“I suppose that you feel now that you are a princess again.”
Sara looked down and flushed a little, because she thought her pet fancy might not be easy for strangers—even nice ones—to understand at first.
“I—TRIED not to be anything else,” she answered in a low voice—“even when I was coldest and hungriest, I tried not to be.”
In The Penniless Princess:
“I suppose that you feel you are a princess again.”
“I always was. Even if someone looks like a servant on the outside, they can still be a princess on the inside.”
Sara looks really smug when she says this, btw.
Miss Minchin is going to respond to this, but her Evil Allergies take over, and she just hops out.
So, with the villain dispensed with, we only have Becky to worry about.
I admit I was pretty curious by this point. See, different versions have dealt with Becky differently. Time for another list!
Book and 1986 miniseries: Becky moves next door, becoming Sara’s attendant/companion
1917 Mary Pickford version: Sorta implies that Becky is also adopted by Carrisford.
1939 Shirley Temple version: Um…who knows? Becky is captured by the police, who believe she and Sara stole all the nice things Carrisford gave them. Then Sara finds her father, and we don’t hear from Becky again. So I guess she rots in jail.
1995 Liesel Matthews version: Adopted by Captain Crewe; they all move back to India.
Shokojo Seira: Boy-Becky gets to go to college, as he’s always dreamed of doing.
The Penniless Princess: BECKY IS MADE A STUDENT AT THE SCHOOL, NOW RUN BY AMELIA!!!
Okay, I am totally digging this ending. I mean, I get that for the time and society in which it was written, making Becky a (very happy) paid companion was a huge step up and a big, big deal. But most modern audiences of kids would probably not “get” that—why does Sara get a fortune and a new daddy when Becky, who has never had anything ever, gets to…still be a servant?
So, down with this.
Finally, in the book and in the miniseries, we revisit the baker and the hungry child. The baker has all but adopted the child, making her an apprentice in the shop.
In The Penniless Princess, the MALE baker has also adopted/apprenticed the hungry BOY child. Grrr…
“When I saw your kindness, I realized how much I have to give.” [Bob the Tomato/Baker says to Sara]
That’s pretty awesome, Bob, and hopefully you’ll teach your new SON better manners than Sara, as well as kindness.
(Yeah, still annoyed that female characters were changed to male. Sure, VeggieTales, get rid of an awesome woman character to make room for a MAN.)
One last chorus of the “God’s Little Princess” song, and a new final line of the song…
If your dreams live or die, you’ll be…God’s little princess.
Dreams dying! Fun! Annnnnnd…we’re out!
Back to the real Bob and Larry the Cuke, who teach us today’s important lesson from the Bible: Romans 8:39. So God loves us no matter what, so we can love others, no matter what (yeah, right, we see sooooo much of that from RTCs), so little girl from the beginning with the letter, suck it up when people are assholes, because you’re God’s pretty little princess.
I mean, this wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. I’m still not into the whole VeggieTales look, with the levitating and the hopping and the sliced bottoms, but there were a few genuine chuckles here and there.
I see in the credits that this was written by two men…who were apparently very threatened by the fact that there were more female characters than male in A Little Princess.
This kinda makes me want to do another VeggieTales thing, maybe for Easter or something.
But for now…
On to Persecuted!