From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler [1973]

Lauren Bacall plays the title role (which is actually a supporting role) in this smart and snappy children's film adapted from the newberry Award-winning book. As Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, she's a very wealthy individual auctioning off a statue that may or may not have been sculpted by Michelangelo. The story quickly shifts over to Claudia (Jean Marie Barnwell), the middle child of the family. Of the three kids, she's the only girl, a straight-A student, and the one their mom relies on to help her with the chores. Claudia feels both taken for granted and neglected, so she devises a plan for her and her younger brother (who's got some money because he cheats at cards) to run away and have adventures. Her plan includes camping out in the Metropolitan Museum, which happens to be the same museum that bought the enigmatic sculpture. While the family searches for the missing kids, Claudia becomes obsessed with solving the secret of the statue. Is it or isn't it a genuine Michelangelo? Like Claudia herself, the script is smart, and it never condescends. The direction is equally smart, and the cast is universally good--which is saying something considering there are so many child actors involved. With messages like "feelings matter as much as learning" and "if you believe in yourself, then you don't need to cheat," From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is an excellent way for a family to spend time together in front of the TV. The story was previously adapted for film in 1973, but this version was made for television in 1995. --Andy Spletzer

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