Madeline (Hatty Jones) is a mischievous orphan in a private Parisian girl's boarding school run by Miss Clavel (Frances McDormand). Her adventures provide her classmates with plenty of thrills. Madeline is rushed to the hospital to have her appendix removed. She falls into the Seine and is rescued by a vagabond dog. And then she helps foil the kidnapping of the son of the Spanish ambassador who lives next door.

Daisy von Scherler Mayer directs this screen adaptation of Ludwig Bemelmans' children's books. In Madeline's final adventure, she uses her spunk and creativity in the service of compassion. When she learns that the persnickety rich owner (Nigel Hawthorne) of the building that houses the school is going to sell it, she tries to sabotage his project. But then, in an inspired moment of grace, she finds a way to deliver him from his small, selfish desires. This act of moral imagination is both surprising and stunning. It also makes Madeline worth seeing.