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Little Prince, The (2015)

The artfully delightful modern adaptation of the beloved French classic by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry that debuted at the Cannes Film Festival has recently been released to Netflix. Directed by the seasoned Mark Osborne (Kung Fu Panda, More), it brings a unique and modern twist to the story celebrating the spirit of childhood and the painful, yet necessary transition into adulthood. While The Little Prince has been considered for film renditions in the past, the idea of translating its whimsical, almost philosophically attuned narrative to the silver screen has always been difficult to grasp. Unlike its 20th century predecessors, however, the latest film features the story enveloped within a larger tale, all told in a combination of beautiful 3D and stop-motion animation.

 The main setting of the retold classic is practically unrecognizable from the start. The urban landscape, the new slate of characters, even the art style differs entirely from those of the book. The main character, a young girl (Mackenzie Foy) who lives with her strict mother (Rachel McAdams), dwells among a colorless world. Her mother plans every aspect of her day down to the second, alluding to Saint-Exupéry’s observation of the antics of grown-ups to over-complicate everything and make even the mundane a numbers game. The familiar story of the Little Prince is introduced about halfway through the film, through the stories of the now elderly aviator who is introduced to the little boy in his travels. In a series of letters and stories he writes and delivers to the girl, he begins to bring her into her world. While she is initially hesitant, his colorful inventions and trinkets soon win her over. While the first half of the film does a fantastic job of setting up the world in which The Little Prince is encased, the second half begins to muddle together the two in a way that may be confusing to both fans of The Little Prince and newer viewers.

As the Little Girl fights against her mother’s will, having learned of the wonders that exist beyond her confines, she travels to another world and discovers The Little Prince herself. Despite bearing the name, the titular character makes less of an appearance for the majority of the film than audiences would expect. His story concludes far before the film even ends. Rather, the remainder of the story is dedicated towards the girl’s own discovery of her imagination, and how she finds the Little Prince, now older and grown up, and brings him back into the magic of childhood. This version of the beloved character is less than recognizable, and provokes a number of plot holes, which are not resolved later on in the film.

In addition, several characters from the story introduced earlier, including the King and the Conceited Man, make a comic appearance, but also serve as little more than side characters for their purposes. The animation plays a fantastic role in world building, casting the beautifully animated characters immediately into a world that invites viewers in to explore. From the austere and gray house inhabited by the young protagonist and her mother to the zany backyard filled with surprises built by the aviator, the film effectively sets the mood from the start to the end. The transitions between the protagonist’s story and that of the Little Prince are also done creatively, utilizing a stop-motion technique combined with the likeness of paper maché to create a scenic retelling of the classic tale as written by the aviator.

Fans will delight to hear iconic quotes and scenes from the original tale making their way into the movie, brought to life by voice talents Riley Osborne (voicing the Little Prince) and James Franco (voicing the Fox). Other characters from the original story include the Rose (Marion Cotillard), the Snake (Benicio del Toro), the Business Man (Albert Brooks), the Conceited Man (Ricky Gervais), and the King (Bud Cort). A number of elements, including major characters and plot devices, from the original story are eliminated from the movie, but those that are included are effectively woven in, inhabiting an even larger space within the modern tale than they even had in the original. One of the major recurring themes of the film is borrowed from the novella - the idea of love.

Whether it is the little girl’s love for the aviator, the Little Prince’s love for his fox, or even his love for the Rose, the theme resonates throughout the entirety of the film, taking on many different shades as the girl grows to understand its meaning to her world. As the Fox tells the Little Prince, “What is essential is invisible to the eye.” From the delicate love introduced at the start of the film to the very last scene, the writing clearly demonstrates an understanding for the balance necessary to portray the realities of the world while simultaneously tapping into the childlike wonder that comes with innocence to its cruelties.

This idea is built upon for the majority of the film, allowing viewers to see into the heart of The Little Prince reincarnated for a new generation of viewers. While The Little Prince does stumble on its rendition towards the end, it manages to regain its momentum before the conclusion, providing a satisfying turn of events reminiscent of the original ending for the story. Alongside the gorgeous animation is a Pixar-esque soundtrack, composed by Hans Zimmer and Richard Harvey. Songs featured also include “Sus-moi”, “Equation”, and “Le Tour de France en Diligence" by French pop singer Camille. The light-hearted and playful backdrop to the coming-of-age story balances out the heavier themes on occasion, while still providing a pleasant artistic performance.

 As a homage to the Saint-Exupéry classic, the film does address many of the major themes presented in the book. While it does not serve as a fully faithful adaptation of the work, that can hardly be expected for a modern feature film. The incorporation of major thematic ideas and characters from the original story into a new and inventive world, alongside the combination of delightful storytelling and beautiful visual work certainly make The Little Prince a film worth watching.

THE LITTLE PRINCE is now streaming on NETFLIX.