The last third of this mild 1998 adventure—which involves a precocious orphan in Paris, her schoolmates, and their habit-clad schoolmistress (Frances McDormand)—is easy to watch. But the rest sets up and resolves uninteresting little conflicts between Madeline (Hatty Jones) and several other characters without creating the slightest ripple of excitement. McDormand’s riveting screen presence and some painterly cinematography only draw attention to the poorly conceived narrative. And when, at an already dangerously saccharine moment, the sound track cranks out “What a Wonderful World,” the filmmakers clear away any remaining doubt about their aesthetic judgment. I don’t think discrepancies between a source and an adaptation are inherently significant, but it does seem relevant to the movie’s grasping notion of drama that the little girl in the classic books written and illustrated by Ludwig Bemelmans is not an orphan. Daisy von Scherler Mayer directed a screenplay by Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett. 90 min.