Lifetime Review: 'Mommy's Little Princess'
A young girl's desire to be special drives her to madness in this intensely entertaining thriller.
10-year-old Lizzy Mathis (Sarah Abbott) has had it rough. Born to an emotionally abusive and drug addicted mother, Lizzy wound up in the foster care system after her mother died of an overdose. But now having been adopted by Julianna Mathis (Alicia Leigh Willis), Lizzy has found the perfect family she's always wanted in her new adoptive mother and her boyfriend Greg (Jeff Teravainen)—though she finds herself at odds with Greg's angsty teenage daughter Allie (Kelly Whyte in her film debut).
After learning about the lineage of her friend Finley (Jaeda LeBlanc), Lizzy starts wondering where her family originated, leading Julianna to buy a genetics test to take with her. It's then that Lizzy learns her lineage may trace back to German royalty, thrilling her with the prospect that she might be a princess. But soon after the revelation, Lizzy's fascination with her potential royal roots quickly becomes an obsession, with her already strained relationships to Greg and Allie suffering as a result. With her fixation on being "special" turning her into a completely different girl than the one she adopted, Julianna must find a way to rescue Lizzy from her own mind... before her delusions lead her down a dark path.
Lifetime has quickly picked up a taste for "Psycho Kid" thrillers with regular Lifetime team Curtis Crawford and Christine Conradt creating a series of the kind I've decided to dub the "Mommy's Little" series. As you can tell from the title, Mommy's Little Princess is the latest return to this series for Crawford and Conradt, and like many of the films in the series, focuses around a young girl with serious mental issues. For this iteration, Conradt takes a unique route to writing her child antagonist, twisting what is usually an innocent childhood fantasy (being a princess) into something sinister.
These types of thrillers typically live and die by their child villain, and Sarah Abbott certainly delivers as Lizzy, playing her in a way where her abrupt change from a traumatized but sweet child into a deranged psychopath flows naturally. But even as Lizzy's obsession with being royalty turns her into an unstable and entitled brat, Abbott allows you to maintain sympathy for Lizzy even in her darkest moments. Having been raised under a drug addict who continuously made her feel worthless, Lizzy learning that she might be royalty finally allows her to have the sense of power and control that she was robbed of for much of her life. This, mixed with the trauma she suffered from her mother, leads Lizzy to begin emulating her cruelty, alienating anyone who she believes wants to take her newly found control away from her.
Alicia Leigh Willis is similarly sympathetic as Julianna, sharing chemistry with Abbott that makes you recognize the strength of her love for her adopted daughter. Many of Julianna's emotional scenes with Lizzy are carried by Willis's strong performance, and the strength of Julianna's desire to make Lizzy feel loved and special in her own right makes Lizzy's descent into insanity all the more tragic.
Jeff Teravainen also brings strength to Greg as he struggles to connect with both Lizzy and his estranged daughter, sharing a strong emotional scene with Kelly Whyte as they talk about how their relationship became so strained. Meanwhile, Whyte brings her all to her debut role as angry teenager Allie, developing her away from the "Rebellious Teen Daughter" archetype, and even playing a strong role in the film's dramatic climax, which has her deliver her strongest performance of the film alongside Abbott.
As for bit parts, Jaeda LeBlanc is notably well casted as the sweet-natured Finley, who ends up caught in her friend's psychotic break, and Lifetime regular Sophie Gendron makes an impact as Julianna's friend Bethany, acting as emotional support during her struggle to help Lizzy. Benedicte Belizaire and Jonathon LeRose are also strong as Lizzy's camp instructors, with Belizaire particularly sticking out as the first character to really take a stand against Lizzy as she begins her descent into villainy.
Despite its association with the "Psycho Kid" genre, Mommy's Little Princess is ultimately an intense drama about a young girl being driven to instability by abusive long-lasting trauma, and the people in her life coming together to mend wounds from the past and grow close as a family. With a strong cast and writing team to back up this plot's emotional gravity, Mommy's Little Princess is an entertaining and impactful thriller that serves both drama and heart that will satisfy any Lifetime fan.
Score: 9 out of 10 eligible German bachelors.