Bomb Rating: 

The empty space in "Madeline," the cinematic adaptation of Ludwig Bemelmans' 1939 children's book, is indicative of Hollywood's glaring inability to provide proper training for its directors. Unlike most other jobs, in which a person learns her trade and gains valuable experience before being thrust into the top ranks of the company, Hollywood is all too happy to waste no time in putting an array of incompetent interns right in the driver's seat.

Thus, people like Michael Bay, who began his career in the advertising industry directing commercials and music videos, now make feature-length films which seem like two-hour commercials and music videos. Likewise, the film industry gets as giddy as a schoolboy with his first erection over independent filmmakers like Daisy von Scherler Mayer, whose claim to genius is making one film, "Party Girl," that didn't get universally panned.

Unfortunately, when Daisy is promoted upstairs and required to tell a coherent story, she's as lost as Dan Quayle at a MENSA convention. After revolving an entire film around eccentricities (considered "cute" when you're funding the thing with credit cards and blood donations), Daisy doesn't know the first thing about getting the ball rolling in "Madeline," which takes an excruciatingly long time to discover its plot. Daisy stalls for time by introducing us to Madeline (Hatty Jones) and Miss Clavel (Frances McDormand) and Lord Covington (Nigel Hawthorne), studiously avoiding opening that pandora's box known as "the story." Elements are introduced, such as Lord Covington's wish to sell Madeline's school and a suspicious tutor who's planning to kidnap Madeline's neighbor, Pepito (Kristian De La Osa), but none of them reveal their relevance until we're already half past bored.

Daisy is so lost by then that she sends up a distress flare in the form of forcing the characters into sudden changes of mood, perhaps hoping that audiences will mistake their schizophrenic shifts for plot points. Both Lord Covington and Pepito undergo personality inversions that take all of three seconds because Daisy has no experience in creating effective transitions. Obviously, the first thing Daisy von Scherler Mayer needs to do is shorten her own name so she can spend less time explaining the significance of all those damn syllables and more time studying the relationship between character development and storytelling.

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