Since the publication of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s✔ book “The Little Prince” in 1943, readers have had an emotional bond to the tale of a sole resident on a tiny planet whose true love is a rose.
Scholars have debated and postulated the deep meanings of the book. This classic piece of literature is so complex, those who have made the effort to do a pure adaptation of the book to a film, TV show or stage production have struggled to keep the delicate threads from breaking. Even when such a transformation happens, it’s hard to keep a balance with entertainment value.
Director Mark Osborne’s solution for his film adaptation of “The Little Prince” is to use the original story as the core, but build a parallel story that makes the movie more accessible. At the heart are the same magical elements that have made the book such a treasure. They are just delivered in a less complicated form.
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Osborne’s “Little Prince” starts with a controlling mother (Rachel McAdams), who wants her daughter, known only as the Little Girl (Mackenzie Foy), to get into the finest school. To do this, they have moved into the district with the town’s top academy. The mother also has set out a detailed learning plan for her daughter’s summer that will have her ready for the new school.
The mom never counted on their strange neighbor, The Aviator (Jeff Bridges), who begins providing distractions to the Little Girl. The most noteworthy are pages of a story The Aviator is writing about a Little Prince and his world that features a single rose, weird planets and a trip to the desert for a deep conversation with a snake.
Osborne cleverly uses two completely different animation styles. His parallel tales share similar themes, but they never create confusion as to which story is being told.
Anything dealing with the original “Little Prince” is presented in a beautiful stop-motion animation of characters made of clay and paper. It is as if the pages of Saint-Exupery’s original manuscript have come to life.
The other world is a the hard-edge lines of computer generated characters and settings. Colors explode unlike anything connected to the original story that is presented in much more subdued hues.
It is as if the pages of Saint-Exupery’s original manuscript have come to life.
Voice casting is another strength, from the everyman drawl Bridges uses to The Aviator to the innocent tones of Riley Osborne as the Little Prince. James Franco’s work as The Fox and Ricky Gervais as The Conceited Man also demonstrate beautiful voice casting.
Osborne’s take on “The Little Prince” shows a reverence for the original story, plus an understanding of what modern audiences want with a more linear story and bright animation. Part of that comes from directing episodes of “SpongeBob SquarePants” and the film “Kung Fu Panda.”
How much an audience will enjoy the movie will hinge on whether they see “The Little Prince” book as such a literary treasure that any manipulation is considered blasphemous, or if they are willing to accept Osborne’s decision to wrap the original story in a glitzy outer coating.
What he’s done is put together a film that’s stunning to look at and compelling in story. He shows great respect to the original book by keeping the tale as the core. At the same time, it is all presented in a modern package that should attract young viewers. It will motivate viewers to seek out the original book.
“The Little Prince” was originally scheduled to be released in theaters in March, but Paramount Studios opted not to show it. It is making its debut through Netflix and will be available to subscribers starting Friday, Aug. 5.