If you’re a fan of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s classic tale about a lonely alien child, you were probably, like me, somewhat perturbed by the news that an updated version of the novella was being made. And as a Netflix film no less. Fortunately, the end result is not bad. The film is in fact, visually enthralling, albeit narratively flawed.
From the opening scene with its sweet, child-like ‘dum-dum-dum’ music and simple animation of the opening pages of The Little Prince, you are transported into de Saint-Exupéry’s creation. The sequence is enrichened by the warm tones of Jeff Bridge’s narration, who plays the character of The Aviator.
We then meet the Mother (Rachel McAdams) and the Little Girl (Mackenzie Foy), whose story forms around the retelling of The Little Prince. The military-like mother wants her daughter to spend the summer preparing for the prestigious Werth Academy. The girl, who is mature and intelligent beyond her years, is eager to please her.
The Aviator who lives next door then accidentally crashes a propeller into their house. He tries to make it up to the girl by sending her extracts from The Little Prince. She at first ignores these, but it isn’t long before she becomes enraptured by the story.
In fairness to the film, it knows its source material like the back of its hand. It remains not only loyal to the story but to its tone. The imagination and emotion of de Saint-Exupéry’s book are absolutely tantamount to its resonating with audiences, and the film adapts the novella with sensitivity and finesse.
The main concern when approaching an animated feature like this is how do you do justice to the original artwork and still make it attractive enough for today’s young audience? The recent Peanuts movie immediately comes to mind, which received a somewhat mixed response for turning its 2D characters into 3D.
The Little Prince uses a mixture of stop motion animation and computer-generated animation to excellent effect. The standard of the animation certainly matches the likes of Pixar or Dreamworks. The film’s visuals are really where it is most accomplished. It has a number of stunning shots and sequences that will leave kids and adults alike amazed.
Unfortunately, the magic is somewhat lost in the second half of the film, which not only drags a little but also takes liberties from the book's content. The likelihood is children probably won’t be deterred or even recognise this, plus it gives the chance for supporting cast members (Ricky Gervais, Paul Rudd, Paul Giamatti and Albert Brooks are among the members of the impressive star-studded cast, as are Marion Cotillard and James Franco) to show their stuff. Still, it has a jaunting and somewhat frustrating effect for fans of de Saint-Exupéry as the plot ends up (without giving anything away) casting aside the beautiful tragedy of the original for the sake of cheap thrills.
A film that could have been perfect, were it not for that misstep in the film’s final act.