Eloise at the Plaza (December 14/03)
There's something slightly disturbing about the premise behind Eloise at the Plaza. It's apparently based on a series of successful children's books by Kay Thompson, and if this film is at all faithful to the source, it's impossible not to think that Eloise sends a terrible message to small kids.
Eloise is a spoiled six-year-old that lives inside the Plaza Hotel with her Nanny (played by Julie Andrews). Her mother is off gallivanting in Paris while Eloise raises hell within the walls of the Plaza, much to the ire of the hotel's manager (Jeffrey Tambor). Her days seem to be spent having fun, generally at the expense of everyone around her - and since her family is apparently incredibly wealthy, nobody's willing to put their foot down and punish her. Her latest mission involves a debutante ball that she's desperate to attend, while the impending visit of a Prince also has her intrigued.
Eloise at the Plaza is mildly entertaining, if only because it seems to consist of one caper after another. The film's structure soon becomes perfectly obvious - Eloise gets into a madcap adventure, adults chase her around, Nanny admonishes her, etc - and the fast pace is clearly in place to keep younger viewers interested. But, though there are a number of talented actors in the cast, Eloise just isn't a compelling enough character to sustain an entire movie. There's no doubt that the movie will act as wish fulfillment for kids - who wouldn't want to run amuck and get away with it? - but when you get right down to it, Eloise is awfully thin and one-dimensional (not to mention annoying).
Keeping the film from becoming an all-out bore are the performers, most notably Tambor as the put-upon manager. He proves to be a perfect comedic foil for Eloise's antics, and his efforts to keep calm in light of her mischievous ways provides the film with its only laughs. And though there's no denying that Eloise at the Plaza is well made, it's just not engaging enough to warrant a recommendation to anyone other than pre-teens.