Watching this film, all I could think is, do we really need another film adaptation of Heidi? The Internet Movie Database lists eighteen different versions of it, some going as far back as the 1920s and 1930s. Productions of this story over the years have starred the likes of Jason Robards, Jane Seymour, Shirley Temple (guess which character she played?), even legends Burl Ives and Maximilian Schell. There are Icelandic versions, Portuguese versions, animated versions…there appears to be no end to the fascination with this story. This version was released in 2005, and for those of you Heidi fans out there, never fear, because it is probably not the last.
This version stars newcomer Emma Bolger as Heidi, and the DVD packaging is quick to point out that this version is very necessary because of the fact that every generation needs a new Heidi. Okay. Although many people are already familiar with the story due to its popularity, it is based on Johanna Spyri's book about an orphaned young girl who is bounced around from home to home and attempts to create a sense of place and belonging by befriending a goatherd named Peter as well as Clara, who is paralyzed. Like Pollyanna, Heidi manages to charm and encourage people with whom she comes into contact.
The acting is very good, except, unfortunately, by Bolger, who is unable to disguise her Irish accent. In fact, if you close your eyes and try to imagine what European country this film centers around, it will be impossible to do so, as everyone appears to be using their own variation. Having spent quite a bit of time in Switzerland and Austria, I understand that they are quite difficult accents to emulate, but no one in this film even tries.
What girls will love about this story is that it focuses upon the courageous spirit of a little girl who must face many challenges in the face of fear and uncertainty. It is indeed a timeless tale, because it has inspired so many incarnations and variations. But then again, so has Scooby Doo. And to be quite honest, I prefer Scooby Doo. Just one of those quirky things, I guess.
It should be noted that the cinematography is absolutely breathtaking. Presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the DVD transfer more than does it justice. Visually, this film is stunning.
To its credit, this production features a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround English language track along with Spanish and French subtitles. The sound quality is very good.
For mothers who loved the story of Heidi as a child, this is a great trip down memory lane or even a means of introducing their own daughters to the story. For those who were never quite as enchanted by the story, be sure to rent it first. Or even better, check out Scooby Doo and the Loch Ness Monster.