THE LITTLE PRINCE (France/Italy 2015) ****
Directed by Mark Osborne
It would unthinkable to do a makeover of the much loved fairytale 1943 novel, Le Petit Prince written by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. A film version had already been made, a faithful one by Stanley Donen, which everybody loved back in the 70’s. So when the director Mark Osborne, pitched his film idea to the actors and financiers, he had better had a good viable one in mind.
And judging from this fantastic and stunning film, he did.
Osborne has created this English-language 3D stop-motion-animated adventure fantasy with a script film written by Irena Brignull and Bob Persichetti based on the 1943 novel of the same name by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. It should be noted that Osborne uses stop motion animation for the novel's story and computer animation for an additional frame narrative. Osborne also assembled a more than impressive list of voice characterizations including Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, Paul Rudd, Marion Cotillard, James Franco, Benicio del Toro, Ricky Gervais, Bud Cort, Paul Giamatti, Riley Osborne, Albert Brooks and Mackenzie Foy.
Saint-Exupery’s story of the boy on his planet is woven into an original narrative which involves a young girl. The film begins as an ordinary story on Planet Earth.
The mother (McAdams) of a prodigious young girl (Foy) wants her daughter to enrol in a prestigious Academy where the moot seems to be essential n everything essential. To ensure her daughter will pass the entrance exam, the mother imposes on her a rigorous study schedule over the course of the summer that leaves little room for leisure. The girl becomes distracted by her next-door neighbour, an elderly, retired aviator (Bridges) who shares with her the story of a young boy from a distant asteroid, the "little prince", whom he supposedly encountered in a desert after crashing his plane. As the two play together without the mother's knowledge, the aviator has a secret that slowly unfolds. The little prince, the real McCoy is cleverly woven into the film’s plot including the novel’s famous characters like the fox, the rose, the businessman and others. A few are left out, but the atmosphere of the novel is left intact regardless.
Despite the child characters, the film is more an adult fantasy than a film for kids. No doubt the kids can enjoy the animation, which is nothing short of marvellous. The idea of freeing trapped stars back into the sky in one of the film’s most memorable segments, is something that is quite the sight for sore eyes. The best looking segment has the aviator take the little girl on a flight into the night. But the story’s logic is a tad too difficult for children to follow. But to be fair to the filmmakers, the story of The Little Prince is quite abstract. The message of the film of never forgetting being a child is a universal one.
And some background about the film: the film has already earned $88.4 million on a $77.5 million budget, before its North American release making it the most successful French animated film abroad of all time. The end credits list it a a French/Italian co-production though the film contains quite a bit of Canadian production values. The film will face tough competition with Disney’s ZOOTOPIA, another excellent animated feature also playing in theatres.