Film Review: Mark Osborne's the Little Prince, on Netflix
If you know me, you know the Little Prince is one of my favorite stories of all-time. It's the only text I've taken the time to read through in French, and it is one of the best things to cheer me up if I'm feeling down.
So, I was both excited and wary when I heard the first news of a new animated adaption, with director Mark Osborne at the helm.
It's always a tremendous challenge when you're dealing with such a classic and beloved piece of work like the Little Prince. Generally, I liked the movie. I cried, I laughed. By creating a new, original story to surround the re-telling of Saint-Exupéry's narrative, the filmmakers have made it a bit easier on themselves. The film isn't simply an animated adaptation of the book, but it creates its own story that builds on the world of the Little Prince.
So, here we go. [Spoilers ahead].
The Plot, in Short.
A young girl is being raised by her single mother. The mother is bent on giving her daughter the "best education possible" - at the expense of the girl having a carefree, "childhood" experience. The two have just moved to a new neighborhood, to assure attendance into a prestigious academy. Here, they find themselves new neighbors of an eccentric old man - the Aviator.
The first half of the film follows the friendship that forms between the girl and the Aviator, while simultaneously telling the story of the Little Prince, through stop-motion sequences that do beautifully capture the character and aesthetic of the original work.
About half-way through the movie, the story diverges headlong into it's own path, leaving the original narrative behind. When the Aviator falls ill and is taken to the hospital, the girl takes off in his plane, determined to fly to Asteroid B-612 to find the Prince.
What she finds, instead, as that the 'Businessman', who was was only in the business of counting stars, has now, in fact, captured them all, and all those living on them. The Prince has been forced to grow up - and he has forgotten all about his rose, the Aviator, even his home.
Generally, it's a nice movie, a nice story, and visually captivating.
Wanted to start off by saying that. The relationship between the Girl and the Aviator is well-developed and touching. The film sequences are well-done, and the animation is really strong. It's a good film - both for people who've never been introduced to Saint-Exupéry, and for those who love the Little Prince.
That being said, my biggest critique:
The Film is Too Obvious to Feel Authentic
Saint-Exupéry's Little Prince subtly critiques greed and vanity, narrow-mindedness and conformity. But it never pushes you to any conclusions, nor does it make outright or obvious statements to any of these points. This is the beauty of Saint-Exupéry's storytelling. He paints a picture, and you feel what he is trying to convey.
The film, unfortunately, does quite the opposite. At times, it feels like it has taken these subtle, carefully crafted illustrations of the human condition, and turned them into full-fledged, in-your-face announcements. I felt like there was a red sign glaring: "He is in love with a Rose", every time the Rose was mentioned. It felt too forced, too obvious, to be totally comfortable. And by pushing these interpretations, the film loses, in a way, the story's authenticity. It lacks Saint-Exupéry's child-like innocence. It lacks the Prince's wide-eyed curiosity, which sees the world plainly, but does not judge it as evil.
The Film Fails to Capture the Essential Message About Love.
One big result of this lack of subtlety, has been to force a narrative about love that is pure in it's simplicity in the original work. For me, the Little Prince's love for his rose, like the fox's love for the Prince, has been one of the purest literary characteristics of love. It is a child's love in it's simplicity - not romantic, not familial, not expectant - simply love.
And yet, Saint-Exupéry manages to capture all the pains and thorns of love - but these moments, so poignant in the book, are lost on screen. Instead, these interactions feel like a slightly forced romance: a feeling furthered by the way in which the girl and the Aviator discuss it. Similarly with the fox, the essential part of this story is missed. (And, this probably isn't helped by James Franco's somewhat creepy voice-acting).
Instead, the film expounds on the character of the businessman....
The film makes a much stronger critique of greed and adulthood - but what exactly is the message?
I would elaborate here, but I'm a bit exhausted and going to wrap this up ^_^.
There are also some weird things going on...
For example, what's up with the snow globes? And when the Businessman captures all the stars, he puts them in such a globe. Basically, the film is trying to put the whole world of the Little Girl into one of these globes. A pretty bleak perspective....
OK, now that I've said all that, let me say ----
It's still a good movie.
It's a really nice story about friendship.
I was disappointed that the film did not show the Aviator's final flight, which it seemed to tease throughout the plot-line. Real-life aviator, author Antoine Saint-Exupéry, disappeared during his last assigned reconnaissance mission during WWII, in 1944.
I, for one, choose to be in the happy belief that Saint-Exupéry did, in fact, make this final flight to return to his friend on Asteroid B-612.