The Little Prince is an adaptation of the beloved children’s novel, an English-language French-Canadian film mixing computer and stop-motion animation. Released internationally in 2015 and in North American August, 2016, this is a reposted review.
Toying with a classic is always a dangerous game when adapting a celebrated book to film, and one so beloved as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s internationally revered story about youth, love, and death is certainly a risky venture. One might say the allegorical tale of an aviator who meets a fallen alien from a tiny asteroid might be wholly impossible to put on screen with its rich imaginative narrative so deeply connected to the personal experience each reader creates. Despite its framing as a children’s story, the novella remains one of the better adult commentaries on being human. Nevertheless, the book, original published in 1943, has been adapted into a number of other projects, including stage productions, radio and television shows, recordings, and opera.
This latest version is a stop-motion, computer animated film that is less an adaptation of Saint-Exupéry’s work and more of a story inspired by the beloved tale. In fact, “The Little Girl” might be a more apt title as the young daughter (Mackenzie Foy) of a highly motivated but workaholic mother (Rachel McAdams) is the real star. Desperate to have her daughter enrolled in the prestigious Werth Academy, the single mother moves them to a home in the school’s district and outlines a monumentally linear and regimented plan to prepare her assiduous daughter for the famously beneficial school during the summer break. The child, living in this balanced, antiseptic world of straight lines and neutral colors is a product of expectation, training and rehearsal. And she excels, unquestioning her destiny.
This finely-tuned and carefully programmed existence for the little girl (unnamed throughout) is shattered (literally) by the introduction of an elderly man next door (Jeff Bridges), a colorful eccentric who lives in a home, not a house, and adorns his property in a wild assortment of imaginative collections, including a tattered old propeller plane that sits in a disheveled mess in the backyard. The man befriends the little girl with a few pages of a story he has written about a time when he crashed his plane in the Sahara Desert and met a boy he calls The Little Prince (Riley Osborne) who has come from an asteroid named B612 after leaving his beloved Rose behind. Unsure of what to make of the start of this odd tale, the girl soon becomes drawn into the delightful story and it’s not long before she secretly abandons her studies and escapes into the adventures of the aviator and his new friend.
Directed by Mark Osborne (Kung Fu Panda), The Little Prince (Le Petit Prince) is a beautiful film. The storybook segments with the downed pilot and the prince are remarkably animated in stop-motion, bringing to life the already famous watercolor images created by Saint-Exupéry for his book. Wonderfully textured and lovingly presented, the art style is inviting and dreamlike, perfectly complemented by “real world” computer animated setting. While the film adds the narrative layer with the little girl not seen in the book, it never avoids the melancholy themes of the novel, capturing much of the sentiment about love, childhood, and loss. Indeed it is these themes, and the manner in which they are carefully revealed, that truly make The Little Prince so special. This is a patient film, allowing its audience to explore and become inspired, and while it might try too hard with some subtle jabs at society in general, the build is perfectly paced and the third act is a journey of wonder and emotion that will leave most in tears.
The best parts of The Little Prince come in the simplest moments, of which there are many so delightfully given life in a film that refuses to give into the mainstream animated formula of bigger and louder. The relationship between the little girl and the aviator feels genuine and the payoff of each, earned. Never manipulative, the emotional investment we naturally develop for these characters is surprisingly deep and highly rewarding. These are two people on the opposite poles of the human experience yet share a common, sympathetic hope for a life of value, he preparing for his end and she struggling to know how to begin. How the little prince plays into these two paths is both touching and honest, an experience that is rare in film. That the phrase You’re going to be wonderful grown-up is said twice by two different people with the same intent but with entirely different meaning is a tribute to the writing and the care the makers of this film have delivered. A story for the child in all of us, The Little Prince is a wondrous take on the classic story.
The Little Prince (2016) Review
Director: Mark Osborne
Writers: Irena Brignull (screenplay), Bob Persichetti(screenplay)
Stars: Rachel McAdams, Paul Rudd, Marion Cotillard, Jeff Bridges, Benicio Del Toro, Ricky Gervais, Mackenzie Foy