While the first project takes some liberties, morphing the true story of friendship between a defeated emperor and young girl into a romance, this keeps things platonic for its tween audience. (A welcome note because the thought of a Pacino/Watson romance is, well, unseemly.) Based on the true story of Betsy Balcombe, Rabin's tale follows the 14-year-old as she breaks out of her family's fear of Bonaparte and becomes his friend while he's exiled on St. Helena. The relationship is based in fact, but the book then adds a bunch of flair with accidental death and hot balloon adventures.
Apparently Al has been itching to tackle Bonaparte for a while, and I imagine this is a bit of a compromise -- as a big-name actor often busy with iconic drama, who yearns to play a certain historical figure, a tween-themed film isn't usually the project of choice. Nevertheless, it's great to see Pacino walk beyond that Righteous Kill and get some more worthy gigs. Lear, Bonaparte ... what's next? Thomas Jefferson?