There’s always been magic in Frances Hodgson Burnett
’s “The Secret Garden
,” a classic children’s story that, for all its harsh lessons about the nature of the world, relies on some pretty strange twists of fate to deliver its story. We’re talking, of course, about the robin redbreast, a cheery, chattering little bird responsible for one of the story’s biggest revelations. While Burnett’s 1911 novel never shied from the rough stuff — like most of her work, the book is concerned with orphans and illness — it used real-world pains to make its pleasures richer. And still, even it relied on a plucky robin to guide its heroine, the sassy Mary Lennox
, to a literal key that opens the titular Secret Garden
Yes, magic is part of Burnett’s world, but the story’s latest big-screen adaptation stretches that concept to strange ends, and not all of them benefit the film.