The Little Prince
Directed by: Mark Osborne.
Written by: Irena Brignull & Bob Persichetti based on the novel by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
Starring: Jeff Bridges (The Aviator), Mackenzie Foy (The Little Girl), Rachel McAdams (The Mother), Paul Rudd (Mr. Prince), Marion Cotillard (The Rose), James Franco (The Fox), Benicio Del Toro (The Snake), Ricky Gervais (The Conceited Man), Bud Cort (The King), Paul Giamatti (The Academy Teacher), Riley Osborne (The Little Prince), Albert Brooks (The Businessman).
After seeing The Little Prince, I can sort of understand why Paramount backed out of releasing the film in America at almost the last minute (Canada had a different distributor, so we get to see it), even if I think it’s a shame that American audiences won’t be able to see this on the big screen. The film is different than American animated films – it is less concerned with action, bright colors and crass humor, and talks down to children far less than Hollywood films do. It is actually a fairly dark little film – perhaps a little too dark for my four and a half year old, who was scared at some points (no nightmares though – and you know what, it’s good to be scared sometimes). The film is really about death – and about how to deal with that, and how to speak about it to children. It doesn’t come right out and say it – but there’s the underlying message. That message is important to children – and I appreciate how the film deals with it.
The film tells the story of a little girl whose mother has her entire life planned out for her. She has the summer to get ready to attend the best school in the area – one that will prepare here to be a useful member of society, and has no time for anything else. In order to get into that school though, they have to move to a new area – and the only house they can afford is an undesirable one. While everyone else lives in the same box, they move in next to a ramshackle, messy house lived in by The Aviator (voiced by Jeff Bridges) – a old man, with a Duck Dynasty beard, who is absent minded, but friendly. The Little Girl and The Aviator become friends – and he tells her the story of The Little Prince – who he meet years ago when his plan crashed in the desert.
The film has two different animation styles. The modern story – of The Little Girl and The Aviator in the computer generated style we are accustomed to, and the scenes of The Little Prince in a stop motion style. The first two thirds of the films goes back and forth between these two stories – before the third story kind of combines them together, as The Little Girl has to go on a journey not unlike The Prince in the story.
The film takes its time telling its story. Although the final act does have some action sequences in it, for the most part, this film is more interested in the characters then the action. The slow bond that grows between The Aviator and The Little Girl, and The Little Prince’s journey from his home planet to the desert. The stories mirror each other – The Aviator needs The Little Prince to help him remember his childhood, and get out of the desert, and The Little Girl needs The Aviator to teach her to loosen up, and actually have a childhood. The ending of the film is never really in doubt – it does have a happy ending, even if perhaps it shouldn’t (it’s telling that while the film ends The Little Prince segment with its death metaphor, it doesn’t end the actual movie the same way (perhaps they felt it would a little too dark – and they may well have been right).
Hollywood doesn’t make films like The Little Prince. They would see the film as too dark and not commercial enough – and perhaps they are right. But it’s a shame that America will have to wait to see the film on Netflix (who stepped up when Paramount backed out) – because the film tells an important message to children, that Hollywood isn’t going to give them (at least not since the 1940s when Disney films were way darker than they are today – which is perhaps why those films seem better than what they are making today). The film is well animated – in two styles – and has a talented English voice cast (taking over for the original French one). It is an intelligent fantasy for children that is quietly moving. For Canadian viewers with slightly older children (my daughter was probably too young – but not by much, and it didn’t do her any lasting harm – in fact, she was very proud of herself that she was able to make it through the film and be brave) – see it in theaters. It deserves the support. For Americans, keep your eye on Netflix.