VIDEO: The trailer for Phoebe in Wonderland
No, not every movie with a precocious, infectiously cute young girl has to star Dakota Fanning — there's her sister Elle, who serves notice here with a remarkable performance as the misunderstood character of the title.
Phoebe's a bit off center; she says inappropriate things at inappropriate times and doesn't get along with her classmates. Her over-busy parents (Felicity Huffman and Bill Pullman) sense her budding dysfunction but choose to take the denial route. Only the oddball drama teacher (the always great Patricia Clarkson) seems to get Phoebe, casting her in a theatrical version of the Lewis Carroll fantasy.
Melodrama and artifice loom, but writer/director Daniel Barnz endows Phoebe with enough tenderness and wit (and the strong cast includes Campbell Scott as the stodgy principal) to make Phoebe in Wonderland an awkward yet rewarding wonderment.