Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s novella “The Little Prince” is undoubtedly one of the most well-known books for children, or adults, around the world. The book has been translated into more than 250 languages and dialects and has sold more than 80 million copies. With such a familiar and beloved book, there are major challenges for a film adaptation. With “The Little Prince,” these challenges are increased because the short book doesn’t really have a conventional plot as it follows the title character’s episodic adventures. In fact, for years, it was labelled as unfilmable.
Happily, a trio of French producers and director Mark Osborne (“Kung Fu Panda”) ignored the naysayers and created a lovely movie based on “The Little Prince.” Osborne, together with Irina Brignull, devised a framing narrative structure as a way of telling the Little Prince’s tales.
The movie begins with a single mother trying to get her 8-year-old daughter into an exclusive school. However, the little girl (whose character name is The Little Girl) fails her interview big time. Her mother’s Plan B is to find a home in the school’s district so her daughter can enter the school that way. The only house she can afford, however, is next to a large, rundown house that stands out like a sore thumb in a gray city filled with identical white box houses. Hoping to make the best of the situation, the mother creates a highly detailed schedule to prep her daughter for school. While The Little Girl starts off following the schedule dutifully, she veers off course after she meets the unusual old man who lives next door in that eyesore of a house.
At first, The Little Girl is put off by the strange man, who is known as The Aviator because he is trying to repair the old airplane in his backyard. Slowly, she starts a friendship with him and he shares with her the stories he wrote when he was a young man. These stories are the stories of The Little Prince.
One of the terrific aspects of this movie is its look. In the sections with The Aviator and The Little Girl, Osborne’s film has the rather straightforward look of CG animation movies. However, when it enters the Little Prince’s stories, the look changes to a more hand-crafted, stop-motion style. While the lyrical, dream-like visual look of the Little Prince’s sections pay tribute to the book’s illustrations, they also serve to create a sharp contrast with the dull conventionality of the present-day world.
Die-hard fans of “The Little Prince” might be disappointed that the film isn’t a straight adaption of the book. However, it does include the book’s significant characters and retains the original parable’s spirit. The movie also introduces several memorable new characters, chiefly The Aviator and The Little Girl. Their endearing relationship forms the film’s emotional core, and Jeff Bridges, who voices The Aviator, and Mackenzie Foy, who voices The Little Girl, excel in their roles.
Their relationship also helps to keep children who might not be familiar with the original book pulled into the story. The film holds some elements that kids can connect to other movies. There is the single, harried parent with a smart child who is often left on her own. And The Aviator is an old man with a dream of flying, somewhat like Carl in “Up.” The film’s final section, which is built around an action sequence that isn’t fully inspiring, has moments that evoke both “The Wizard of Oz” and Tim Burton movies.
Still, “The Little Prince” is a sweet, enchanting movie with a gorgeous visual style, a heart-warming relationship and a smart adaptation of the original book. It is the type of film that will make for a wonderful family movie night. It is available now on Netflix. See a trailer for the film below.